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Theses Doctoral

Splendor of Ruins: Gang, State, and Crime in Honduras

Carter, Jon Horne

Splendor of Ruins examines the growth of street gangs in Honduras in the aftermath of the Cold War, as a flourishing criminal economy and the devastation of Hurricane Mitch destabilized life in the capital, Tegucigalpa. I examine the displacement of smaller gangs in the city by the broad community of international gangs with ties to Los Angeles, California, called the maras, and campaigns against them by the Honduran state and United States Homeland Security. I emphasize the ways in which Mano Dura, or Strong Hand policing, along with Anti-Gang legislation, undermined the immediate distinction between anomic violence and sovereign power across the country. Splendor of Ruins focuses on the transformation of gang aesthetics during this same period, as gang members began tattooing their bodies, particularly the face, with detailed arrangements of Satanic and chthonic imagery. I ask how the appearance of the devil and other motifs of transgression can be understood politically, both within the context of state power reaching beyond the limits of its own laws, as well as within the easy lucre of the criminal economy in which many young Hondurans were choosing to live.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Taussig, Michael T.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 12, 2012