Laura Blume: The violence against public figures project

Laura BlumeTitle

The violence against public figures project


Laura Blume


Political Science


I am an assistant professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno. My current research focuses on the political causes and consequences of criminal violence in Central America. More broadly, my teaching and research interests include the war on drugs, violence, illicit economies, immigration, and democratization throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. I am working on a book project that uses comparative ethnography to examine the ways in which political context impacts drug-trafficking violence in Central America. I won a 2022 Harry Frank Guggenheim Distinguished Scholar Award to support a project I am leading that is tracking Violence Against Public Figures (VAPF) in Central America. I have had the opportunity to work with numerous University of Nevada, Reno students on this project and really enjoy mentoring students.

Project overview

This project seeks to expand academics and practitioners' understanding of violence, specifically in Central America, by constructing a comprehensive cross-national, panel dataset of incidents of lethal Violence Against Public Figures (VAPF). Advancing and increasing understanding of violence towards public figures is of vital importance because this targeted violence can have broad and serious ripple effects on society and governance. For example, killing candidates limits the choices available to electorates, killing judges or prosecutors undermines the rule of law, killing journalists compromises freedom of the press, and killing activists has clear consequences for civil society and the various social movements to which these activists provide leadership. Thus, lethal violence against public figures warrants far greater attention. When completed, this dataset would be the first comprehensive, cross-national panel dataset of violence against a range of public figures, all of whom are important to functioning democracy and all have become targets of assassinations in Central America. Data on these assassinations is collected and coded based on online sources (e.g., newspapers). This project requires Spanish language skills.

Pack Research Experience Program information and application