Book Review: Violence at the Urban Margins by Javier Auyero, Philippe Bourgois, and Nancy Scheper-Hughes.

AuthorYacher, Leon
PositionBook review

Auyero, Javier, Philippe Bourgois, and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, eds. Violence at the Urban Margins. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. xii +340 pages. Paperback, $24.95.

Currently, as many times before, the superficial euphoria of a United States presidential election dominates the media's attention. Meanwhile, in the shadows of cities--the urban margins--the reality of everyday life continues to affect hundreds of thousands of people. Violence in the United States has gained greater attention of late, although mainly because of a number of fatal casualties directed at the police. However, coverage of the victims of violence in areas considered part of the fringe rarely receives attention, except for when a bizarre event begs for attention. Tragically, debates about public safety are dominated by persons from the middle and upper classes, not those from the lower class--the very people that suffer the most from violence.

Violence at the Urban Margins, edited by sociologist Javier Auyero and anthropologists Philippe Bourgois and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, is a multidisciplinary book compiling the work of sixteen scholars from North America, Latin America, and Europe. The publication, resulting from a short workshop held at the University of Texas in 2013, delves into the role of violence in the lives of the urban poor in South, Central and North America. Violence at the Urban Margins' cutting edge ethnographic research is the single most valuable aspect of this book. The researchers lived and interacted with the people most affected by daily conditions of abject violence to gain from them a 'living' perspective. Standard theoretical models gained much strength from this field application.

Another valuable aspect of the book is its comparative geographic analysis. In the past, the United States media has overwhelmed the rest of the world with its journalistic coverage. As a result, it is not unusual for people to think of the United States as a violent nation. However, as demonstrated by the book's coverage of several, marginal, urban areas in Central and South America, it is apparent that violence is a shared phenomenon. With respect to these different geographic areas, the book's discussions are not limited to issues related solely to interpersonal violence. The role the state plays with respect to the violent reality within society is also examined, particularly as it applies to Latin America.

What is interesting is that the myth of...

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