Adiós Niño is a hard read. Set in a grim Guatemala City, it starts out by telling us that urban youth, once “heroic,” are now “criminal”: all have “gone down the drain” (p. 2). The book thus at first appears to be an account of the rise of the notorious gangs in the largest city in Central America. But, situated in historian Deborah Levenson's long-term research on social movements in the country, it is something more (and also less).

Certainly this book does tell a story about gangs, or, more specifically, it contemplates changes in forms of gang organization and subjectivities of gang members. These changes, Levenson tells us, reflect historical transformations in Guatemala, in particular the postwar process and neoliberalization, but also the unresolved conflicts of the past. She draws on Pierre Bourdieu's “law of the conservation of violence:...

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