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Abstract

This dissertation is an ethnography of the state’s forensic apparatus at the time of Colombia’s political transformation in preparation for peacemaking. The project traces the unspectacular work of prosecutors, criminal investigators, and forensic experts working for Colombia’s forensic apparatus and studies how the modes of knowledge traditionally associated with the work of determining criminal culpability were themselves in a state of transition. The historical conjuncture within which the dissertation situates political transition begins in 2012, when the government of President Juan Manuel Santos began negotiations with the insurgent army, FARC-EP. The dissertation follows the transformation of the country's forensic apparatus well into 2019, three years after the conclusion of the peace agreement. The theorization of forensic knowledge that emerges from this ethnography moves beyond the modernist paradigm of forensics understood as the science of criminal identification, showing instead how the forensic domain is simultaneously constituted by practices of capitalist accounting and legal accountability that establish the evaluative and evidentiary conditions for adjudicating both crime and debt. The dissertation shows how the transformation of Colombia’s prosecutorial apparatus in preparation for peacemaking harnessed forensic knowledge as the science of crime and debt to articulate a vision for settling accounts that aligned legal obligation with capitalist debt, two domains that liberal justice systems strive to keep separate through the siloing of civil and criminal modes of liability. As this process unfolded, state investigations of ordinary and wartime crimes became increasingly entwined with practices, techniques, and modes of expertise associated with contemporary financial accounting and auditing. Crucially, the legal technologies associated with post-conflict legal accountability or transitional justice, which enable a type of speculation with future peace that is in various ways analogous to the speculative practices centered on calculating and managing financial risk, were essential to this process. From this alignment between political transition and finance emerged new objects of forensic knowledge. The dissertation investigates some of these objects, which include literal accounting objects, such as the inventory of FARC’s wealth contemplated in the peace agreement, as well as entirely new objects of state knowledge, such as the concept of “financial engineering” used to describe one of the first post-agreement national corruption scandals. Ultimately, the dissertation shows how transitional justice and capitalist accounting aligned to produce a distinct mode of governing political transition that enables the financialization forensic knowledge. This broad field of transformations in legal knowledge, epistemologies of criminal investigation, and capitalist accounting is what constitutes "forensics of finance," an emergent forensic regime that articulates accountability, accounting, and financial risk management.

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