Mortal Doubt: Gangs and Order in Guatemala City

Authors: Anthony Fontes*, American University
Topics: Latin America, Urban Geography
Keywords: Gangs, Central America, violence, crime
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 6:20 PM
Room: Studio 4, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since the end of Central America’s longest and bloodiest civil war (1960-1996), Guatemala City has become an epicenter of homicidal violence. Maras (transnational gangs) have become the erstwhile emissaries of this new order. They are victims and perpetrators of spectacular violence and pivotal figures in a peacetime politics of death. Drawing from five years of investigative ethnography, media analysis, and oral history, I explore the loops and feedback effects between the maras’ material violence and their symbolic power in social imaginaries. In so doing, I show how maras moor a collective sense of existential uncertainty over the terms of everyday survival that has come to dominate urban life, and how the specter of out-of-control criminal violence can become utterly entwined with the making of lived and symbolic landscapes, defying every effort to fix it in time and space.

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