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Dr Graham Denyer Willis (Not accepting PhD students for 2019/2020)

Dr Graham Denyer Willis, (Not accepting PhD students for 2019/2020)

University Lecturer, Centre of Development Studies and Centre of Latin American Studies

B.A. (Toronto), M.A. (Royal Roads), Ph.D. (MIT)

Currently not taking PhD students


Graham Denyer Willis is a University Lecturer in Development and Latin American Studies in the Department of Politics and International Studies. His work concerns the politics of informality, the state, violence and cities of the Global South. An ethnographer, his research looks towards everyday considerations and lived realities that circulate through ‘slums’, policing, cloned cars and racialized violence in space –and the ways that such conditions are made visible, or not, in an incipient age of technology.

His first book, The Killing Consensus: Police Organised, Crime and the Regulation of Life and Death in Urban Brazil (California, 2015), examines the ways that organised crime and policing are ‘nested’ in the everyday spatial practice of violence in the city of Sao Paulo. This work is based on three years of ethnographic research alongside homicide and other detectives in this city, winning a series of international distinctions.

He has published in World Development, the Journal of Latin American Studies, Current Sociology, Latin American Research Review, as well as in the New York Times and the Boston Review. He is an incoming Editor of the Journal of Latin American Studies, and a Fellow and Director of Studies in Geography at Queens’ College. 

Up to date information is available at   

Research Interests

Graham's research deals with questions of security, development and democracy in cities of the Global South, with a focus on Latin America. Graham's work crosses a number of theoretical lines to ask questions about the proliferation of violence in cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  With the rise of grassroots security institutions like gangs, organized crime groups, community patrols and para-state militias, Graham's research tracks the ways that states are adapting, coping and/or managing with what are apparently distinct forms of 'sovereign' violence. Graham has undertaken a number of projects within this larger research agenda, including a multi-year ethnographic study of the work of homicide and other detectives in Sao Paulo. His work has been funded by a number of sources including the Social Science Research Council and the Open Societies Foundations, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Centre for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Graham teaches Paper 5, Cities and Development, for the MPhil in Development Studies. He also contributes to the Core Course of the Centre of Latin American Studies (CLAS) and will teach a module at CLAS in future years.

Key Publications

Denyer Willis, Graham. (Forthcoming in 2015). The Killing Consensus: Police, Organized Crime and the Regulation of Life and Death in Urban Brazil. Berkeley: University of California Press.
(Awarded 2014 Best Dissertation, Brazil Section, Latin American Studies Association and Honorable Mention, Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT.) 
Denyer Willis, Graham and Mariana Mota Prado. (2014). Of Process and Pattern: The Police Pacification Units in Brazil as an Institutional Bypass Reform. World Development, 64, 232-242.
Denyer Willis, Graham. (2014). Antagonistic Authorities and the Civil Police in São Paulo, Brazil. Latin American Research Review, 49(1), 3-22.
Davis, Diane E. and Graham Denyer Willis (2011). Anti-Crime Social Movements in Latin America. In: Snow, David A., Donatella Della Porta, Bert Klandermans, and Doug McAdam (Eds.) Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Movements. Blackwell Publishing: Oxford.
Denyer Willis, Graham. (2009). Deadly Symbiosis? The PCC, the State and the Institutionalization of Violence in São Paulo. In: Rodgers, Dennis and Gareth A. Jones. Youth Violence in Latin America. New York: Palgrave, p. 168-181.
Selected Policy and Media
The Gun Library.  (Apr. 14, 2014). Boston Review.
What Happens What Governments Negotiate with Criminals. (Oct. 30, 2013). Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.
Uncovering Sao Paulo's Blood Feud.  (Dec. 10, 2012). The Stream. Al Jazeera.
What’s Killing Brazil’s Police? (Dec. 2, 2012). New York Times Sunday Review.

At this time Dr Denyer Willis is accepting research proposals for discussion from those looking to apply to the PhD course in 2017/18

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