Benjamin Lessing

Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science and the College 

Benjamin Lessing studies “criminal conflict”—organized armed violence involving non-state actors who, unlike revolutionary insurgents, are
not trying to topple the state. His doctoral dissertation examines armed conflict between drug cartels and the state in Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil, and recently won the INEGI/UNODC Second International Thesis Contest on Public Security, Victimization, and Justice in Latin America. Additionally, he has studied prison gangs’ pernicious effect on state authority and how paramilitary groups use territorial control to influence electoral outcomes. 

His publications include “When Business Gets Bloody: State Policy and Drug Violence” in Small Arms Survey 2012, and “Tres Mitos Sobre la Guerra del Narco [Three Misconceptions about the Drug War]” in Perspectivas Sobre Desarrollo

Lessing received an MA in economics and a PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. He also holds a BA in economics and philosophy from Kenyon College. He recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) and the Center on International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). Prior to his graduate work, Lessing conducted field research on the small arms trade in Latin America and the Caribbean for numerous international organizations. In addition, he was a Fulbright student grantee in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. 

Lessing joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2013.

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