Rafael Acosta

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures - Department of Spanish & Portuguese
Assistant Professor
Director of Admissions
Primary office:
Wescoe Hall
Room 2620
University of Kansas
1450 Jayhawk Blvd
Lawrence, KS 66045


Rafael Acosta grew up grilling under the shade of the Río Bravo's pecan trees. His current research projects involve the political and legal matrices of affect that develop around culturally relevant stories and narrative figures. That or how stories convince us to do (or not to do) things in the political arena. His research interests focus on a notion of Comparative Literature that uses Mexico and the United States (instead of the France-England-Germany axis) as the nexus of meaning that allows for interpretation. He studies the narratives of these countries in conjunction with other European or narrative constructs, for example, studying the kinship of Drug runner ballads and the Illiad, in order to develop a concept of an economy of honor and glory and to examine how literary representations of the Drug Lord develop notions of political legitimacy that belie social contract theories: how the Aeneid and the Trojan’s nation building narrative relates to other stateless nations identitary narratives, specifically in the construction of Chicano Aztlán through prison narratives, or how the Cormac McCarthy’s nomad dystopias in Blood Meridian help us analyze the dangers of the territory of exception where the judiciary power carries out its functions.

His current book project, Druglords, Bandits, Cowboys and Illegality in the Mexican American Frontier, reflects on how narratives of the frontier provide a political laboratory for the political production of the center, and how these narratives are used to further political goals. He analyzes narrative in literary, cinematic and musical form, referring to works by Américo Paredes, Luis G. Inclán, Clint Eastwood, Rolando Hinojosa, Yuri Herrera, and Cormac McCarthy. Some of his articles are forthcoming on Latin American Research Review, and Comparative Literature amongst other journals

Selected Publications

Acosta Morales, Rafael. "Drug trafficking, the lettered city and the risks of law ." Mexico through Art. University of Arizona Press. Forthcoming.

Morales, Rafael. "Splitting the colonizer." Comparative Literature Forthcoming.

Acosta Morales, Rafael. "Ideología y Utopías: Bandidaje, Capital y Consumo en México." Latin American Research Review (Pittsburgh PA USA: University of Pittsburgh) 52.3 (Autumn 2017): 1-13. https://doi.org/10.25222/larr.104.

"With no safety net: Public Security in the age of neoliberal reforms. ." Georgetown Journal of International Affairs (5 Dec. 2016).

Acosta Morales, Rafael. "La Narcocultura y la legitimación de los Grupos Armados Ilegales [Narcoculture and the legitimation of Ilegal Armed Groups.]." Senderos de violencia: Latinoamérica y su literatura armada. Romance Notes Chapel Hill NC USA: UNC UP, Spring 2016.

Acosta Morales, Rafael. "El Estado y el Caudillo: Reconfiguración de la Legalidad en Trabajos del Reino, de Yuri Herrera [The State and the Caudillo: A reconfiguration of legality in Yuri Herrera’s Los trabajos del Reino]." Latin American Perspectives (Sage Journals) 41.2 (Mar. 2014).

Acosta Morales, Rafael. "El cartel se funda en los huecos del Estado [The cartel is founded in the wake of the State]." Posdata 9 (Oct. 2011).

Acosta Morales, Rafael. "Operación Bolívar y la conspiración en la hiperabundancia de la información [Operación Bolívar and conspiracy in the hiperabundance of information]." Revista Iberoamericana LXXVII.234 (Jan./Mar. 2011): 149-162.

Selected Presentations

Morales, R. . (10/17/2017). Even our police state is outsourced overseas: The Merida Initiative. Chicana Symposium. Topeka KS


Calendar of Events
Diversity Event Calendar

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