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Mortal DoubtTransnational Gangs and Social Order in Guatemala City$
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Anthony W. Fontes

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780520297081

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520297081.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Mortal Doubt

Anthony W. Fontes

University of California Press

This chapter presents the rise of extreme peacetime violence in Guatemala City and in the Northern Triangle of Central America more generally, detailing the conditions of severe uncertainty over the cause and meaning of so much crime. It lays out the historical shift between the remembered “order” of civil war and the (dis)order of extreme peacetime violence, and it details the maras’ role in stabilizing contemporary collective terror. The chapter then highlights how other scholars of Central America have engaged with the profound uncertainties of contemporary violence, and it introduces the concept of mortal doubt. The chapter ends with a discussion of methodological dilemmas and strategies for conducting fieldwork in and on criminal networks.

Keywords:   Guatemala, Central America, gangs, peacetime violence, terror, Cold War, politics of memory, rumor, uncertainty, ethnographies of violence, ethnographic methodology

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