Search type

Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute

Malgorzata Polanska

Thesis title

'Grey zones: between criminal networks and civil society in Mexico' (working title)


This is an evidence-based research that intends to draw on the experience of working in the security field in Mexico. At its early stage, this project has shifted from the institutional-oriented problem-solving approach to a more critical perspective.

It examines the interactions between criminal networks and society at the local level. Thus, the main focus is the local agency as a response to the increasing violent criminal presence. It attempts to respond a question on how – and why in such a way – local actors adapt (resist, ignore, counteract, etc.) to direct and indirect violent circumstances.

Research interests

Transnational criminal networks, critical peace and security studies, inter-institutional co-operation, borders, research outcomes in practice, origins of violence, as well as local civil society responses to violence.

Professional background

Although coming from Poland, I always wanted to live in Latin America and it was in Mexico where I achieved my main professional experience. During the last 5 years I had an opportunity to be a lecturer, together with working for the Mexican Ministry of Health and as a consultant of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Finally, I was privileged to be part of a research group within the Association of Analysis on Security with Democracy (CASEDE), which ended up in publishing ‘Atlas on the Security and Defence in Mexico 2012’, co-edited with Sergio Aguayo Quezada, Raúl Benítez Manaut and Armando Rodríguez Luna.

Previous education

I received my Master’s degree in International Relations and undergraduate studies in Political Science at the University of Wroclaw, Poland; including its part in Development and IR in Aalborg, Denmark; as well as postgraduate Latin American studies in Warsaw.

While living in Mexico, I was a fellow of the Mexican and Polish governments at the Autonomous University of Puebla, as well as a visiting student in the Centre for Economic Research and Teaching
(CIDE) in Mexico City. Meantime, I graduated from the Strategy and Defence Policy course, at the National Defence University, Washington DC.

Teaching interests

IR modules on globalisation, geopolitics, transnational crime, inter-institutional cooperation, security studies, Latin America and Mexico as a region, intercultural relations.

Why I'm doing a PhD at HCRI

Following a 5-year Mexican experience, I needed to both achieve an academic distance and structure what I had been working on. Having at the same time an external (European), and internal (Mexican) elements of my identity, I found that the HCRI was offering the most relevant to me: the highest quality of research, truly interdisciplinary approach, extraordinary supervision and a supportive approach towards a new student.

I was also attracted by the Institute, as it offers critical approach to those who intend to move between security and peace studies, as well as academy and practice. Blurred boundaries between disciplines, strong research, not obvious questions and open-minded approaches, plus friendly colleagues combine to a great outcome. Great place to start your 4-year journey!

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