Monday, October 23, 2006

Interview with Prof. Dillman by Maggie Arends

Professor Dillman will be presenting his research on illicit economies and reconstruction in Iraq, Palestine and Algeria on Wednesday, October 25 at Noon in the Trimble Forum. He sat down with me to briefly discuss his research interests and what he wants us all to know about the illicit economy.

Maggie: You will be presenting your research on illicit economies. How did you develop an interest in this topic?

Professor Dillman: I attended a conference at UCLA, where devastated economies in the Middle East were addressed as a whole. There were questions like, “How can we reconstruct?” Especially specific places like Palestine, like Yemen. This issue is incredibly complicated; it’s not just about giving aid or not giving aid, or getting peace or not getting peace. There is a question of how well, if at all, we can accomplish reconstruction, and I began to find answers in the ‘shadow’ economy. I have basically found that the ‘shadow’ economies make it much, much more difficult to reconstruct.

M: Do you think that the importance of illicit economies is largely ignored by the media, government, and/or academics? If so, why?

PD: Yes. That is to say, we are all aware of the role they play, but how we talk about is important. Also, there is a question of who is currently talking about it—criminologists discuss the role of the illicit, but it is not a widespread phenomenon in other areas of academic study. IPE scholars in particularly do not have the tools as of yet, and they are a little late in approaching this issue. Yes, there is often talk of terrorism, of money laundering; I am trying to unite and re-frame the issue under one banner of the illicit. I feel especially that this issue is very neglected in Middle Eastern economies. There is much writing about democracy, culture, religion, but I hope to illuminate the particular characteristics of the illicit within Middle Eastern societies.

M: What knowledge would you most like to impart to students and professors at UPS? How can they find out more about the illicit economy?

PD: Take my course [laughs]. Or, wait two years. I’ll have a book out by then. I also recommend “Illicit: How smugglers, traffickers, and copycats are hijacking the global economy” by Moises Naim. Look, I want everyone to know that we are tied to the illicit even in this region. We are not removed from it. The consequences will affect us eventually—we are not just buying oil, or donating foreign aid; we are more than likely participating in the illicit economy, even with seemingly innocent monetary exchanges.

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