Fragile Assets: Street gangs and the extortion business

The Essex Accounting Centre (EAC) warmly invite you to join guest speaker Professor Dean Neu from Schulich School of Business as he explores how street gangs make assets fragile and amenable to extortion in the territories that they control. 

  • Wed 5 May 21

    14:00 - 16:00

  • Online

    Join this seminar

  • Event speaker

    Professor Dean Neu, Schulich School of Business, York University. Canada

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Essex Accounting Centre (EAC) Research Seminar Series

  • Event organiser

    Essex Business School

  • Contact details

    Danson Kimani

The aim of the Essex Accounting Centre (EAC) research seminar series is to support or world-class research activities in four key areas; social responsibility and corporate governance; (management) accounting change (in privatised, public and third sectors); global development, corruption, and accountability; and reporting, regulation and capital markets. The seminar series is also expected to promote interdisciplinary research that links the work of members of the centre with others both within the university and with external institutions.

Seminar abstract

This presentation examines how street gangs make assets fragile and, hence, amenable to extortion in the territories that they control.

It focuses on two criminal organizations, the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18, that operate in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as well as in the United States.

These two street gangs, referred to as “pandillas” or “maras” in the communities that they operate, are responsible for most extortion activities in the Northern Triangle area, with estimates suggesting that the amount of extortion collected exceeds $650M annually (Insight Crime 2015).

Starting from prior Foucauldian-inspired accounting research, it is proposed that social actors and assets are simultaneously enmeshed in relations of government and relations of sovereign power.

Both sets of relations enlist technologies of visibility, including proxies for people and things that might otherwise be difficult to see.

Using longer-term participant observation data as well as interviews and archival data from El Salvador, the study shows how people and assets are placed into sovereign power relationships, thereby helping to make assets (and people) fragile and thus facilitate extortion.

The study also suggests that it is the Salvadoran state, through its taxation practices and its failure to nurture marginal territories, that creates the conditions of possibility for the extortion business.


This seminar is free to attend with no need to register in adavance.

We welcome you to share this seminar with your friends, colleagues and classmates.

Join this seminar on Wednesday 5 May 2021 at 2pm (BST)

Speaker bio

Dean Neu is a professor of accounting at York University, Canada. He is a former editor of Critical Perspectives on Accounting, a former board member of the Parkland Institute and the Director of the Public Interest Accounting Group at York University.

Prior to joining the faculty, he was the Director of the Centre for Public Interest Accounting and faculty member at the University of Calgary. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Alberta, the University of Toronto and Universidad de Autonoma del Estado de Morelos in Mexico.

As an accounting scholar and activist Dean is committed to unveiling the presence of accounting where we might not otherwise expect to find it, he has in numerous articles and public appearances revealed how accounting plays a meditative role between governments and population segments.

Dean’s research and writing demonstrate how accounting, working hand in hand with bureaucracies, shapes and constructs societal governance.

In this work, the disguise of accounting as a boring benign appendage to business and government is stripped away to reveal how accounting number play a crucial role in shaping public policy and the perceptions the public has of those policies.

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