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Secure the Soul

Christian Piety and Gang Prevention in Guatemala

Kevin Lewis O'Neill (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 304 pages
ISBN: 9780520278493
January 2015
$29.95, £24.00
Other Formats Available:
“I’m not perfect,” Mateo confessed. “Nobody is. But I try.” Secure the Soul shuttles between the life of Mateo, a born-again ex-gang member in Guatemala and the gang prevention programs that work so hard to keep him alive. Along the way, this poignantly written ethnography uncovers the Christian underpinnings of Central American security. In the streets of Guatemala City—amid angry lynch mobs, overcrowded prisons, and paramilitary death squads—millions of dollars empower church missions, faith-based programs, and seemingly secular security projects to prevent gang violence through the practice of Christian piety. With Guatemala increasingly defined by both God and gangs, Secure the Soul details an emerging strategy of geopolitical significance: regional security by way of good Christian living.
List of Illustrations

1. Insecurities
2. Reality
3. A Calling
4. Left Behind
5. Forsaken

Appendix: Notes on Research
Reference List
Kevin Lewis O'Neill is Associate Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion and the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies, University of Toronto. He is the author of City of God: Christian Citizenship in Postwar Guatemala.
"Extensively researched."—Books & Culture
"O'Neill's field work . . . throughout the book, is impressive.; [Secure the Soul] opens up a range of important conversations."—Jill DeTemple Marginalia - LA Review of Books
"A deeply sensitive ethnography . . . a watershed moment not only for students of Guatemala, but also for Latin Americanists, scholars of Evangelical Christianity, and critics of the national security state."—Chris Garces Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
“Through extraordinary fieldwork, Kevin Lewis O’Neill unearths the everyday state of emergency of Guatemala's evangelical Christian response to gang violence. He prompts us to rethink such issues as governmentality, extra-judicial violence, incarceration, addiction, Christian piety, and ‘the soul’, while making visible the painful social suffering that so urgently requires understanding.”— Philippe Bourgois, author of In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio

"Powerfully narrated and visually arresting, Secure the Soul is a remarkable study of the interface of Christian ministry, gang networks, and city life in Central America. You will leave this book with a deep and sober understanding of the porous ways Christian piety informs care and security there where the political field has been emptied out and a belief in this world is all but gone. A landmark contribution to the anthropology of religion and urban studies."—João Biehl, author of Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment

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