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Latin American Studies

David Shirk, PhD

Associate Professor, Political Science and International Relations
Director, Justice in Mexico Project

David A. Shirk, Ph.D., joined the University of San Diego in July 2003. Shirk’s teaching covers a wide range of subject areas, mainly concentrated in comparative politics, international political economy, Latin American studies, and U.S.-Latin American relations, with a concentration in Mexico and border politics. He conducts research on Mexican politics, U.S.-Mexican relations, and law enforcement and security along the U.S.-Mexican border. Shirk also directs the Justice in Mexico Project (, which examines rule of law and security issues in Mexico. From 2003-2013, Dr. Shirk directed the Trans-Border Institute, which works to promote greater analysis and understanding of Mexico, U.S.-Mexico relations, and the U.S.-Mexico border region.


Ph.D., University of California, San Diego; Political Science
B.A., Lock Haven University, International Studies

Woodrow Wilson Center Fellow, 2008-2009
Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies Fellow, 1998-1999; 2001-2003
Ralph Bunche Scholar, 1992

Scholarly and Creative Work

Dr. Shirk's publications include: Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2013, co-authored with Cory Molzahn and Octavio Rodríguez. (San Diego, CA: Trans-Border Institute, 2012; Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico, co-authored with Catherine Daly and Kimberly Heinle (San Diego, CA: Trans-Border Institute, 2012); La Reforma Judicial en México, ed. with Octavio Rodriguez (San Diego, CA: Trans-Border Institute, 2012); “States, Borders, and Violence: Lessons from the U.S.-Mexican Experience,” in Wil G. Pansters (ed.) Violence, Coercion, and State-making in Twentieth-Century Mexico: The Other Half of the Centaur. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012) Contemporary Mexican Politics, 2nd edition, co-authored with Emily Edmonds-Poli (New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2011); "Judicial Reform in Mexico: Change and Challenges in the Judicial Sector," in Mexican Law Review, Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas, Volume IV, Number 1. (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2011); “National and Public Security in Mexico,” in Roderic Ai Camp (ed.) The Handbook of Mexican Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); Justiciabarómetro: Resultados de la encuesta a la policia municipal preventiva de la Zona Metropolitana de Guadalajara (2009) co-authored with Marcos Pablo Moloeznik and María Eugenia Suárez de Garay; Reforming the Administration of Justice in Mexico (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007) co-edited with Wayne Cornelius; Evaluating Accountability and Transparency in Mexico: National, Local, and Comparative Perspectives, co-edited with Alejandra Ríos Cásares (Trans-Border Institute, 2007); Mexico's New Politics: The PAN and Democratic Change (Lynne Rienner, 2005).

Teaching Interests

Shirk’s teaching spanned a wide range of subject areas, including graduate and undergraduate courses on comparative politics, international relations, U.S. politics, border politics and policy, race and ethnic politics, international political economy, rule of law, NAFTA politics, Latin American politics, and Mexican politics. In addition to regular advising duties, Shirk has supervised several students with independent study projects and honors theses on arms trafficking, drug trafficking, foreign development aid, foreign direct investment, immigration, human capital formation, rule of law, and violent crime.