Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2008

A History of Nonviolence: Insecurity and the Normative Power of the Imagined in Costa Rica

Sebastian Huhn

August 2008

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Crime, violence, and insecurity are among the most important social topics in contemporary Costa Rica. These three issues play a central role in the media, politics, and everyday life, and the impression has emerged that security has changed for the worse and that society is now threatened permanently. However, crime statistics do not support this perception. The paper thus asks why violence and crime generate such huge fear in society. The thesis is that the Costa Rican national identity—with Costa Rica constructed as a nonviolent nation— impedes a realistic discussion about the phenomena and their causes, and simultaneously provides a platform for sensationalism and the social construction of fear.