Kevin O’NeillSecure the Soul: Christian Piety and Gang Prevention in Guatemala

University of California Press, 2015

by Alejandra Bronfman on June 2, 2015

Kevin O'Neill

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Kevin O'Neill's fascinating book Secure the Soul: Christian Piety and Gang Prevention in Guatemala (University of California Press, 2015) traces the efforts of multi-million dollar programs aimed at state security through gang prevention in Guatemala.  O'Neill is most interested in the ways that Christianity and ideas about piety, salvation, redemption, and transformation guide and shape a variety of programs in prisons, rehabilitation centers, and, perhaps surprisingly, reality television and call centers. This is a finely hewn multi-sited ethnography as well as a moving account of the life of a single former gang member. At its core is a tension between the critique of programs that range from the absurd to the tragic, and a recognition that without those programs, former gang members in Guatemala would be relegated to the barest of bare lives.

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