Youth in Postwar Guatemala: Education and Civic Identity in Transition

In the aftermath of armed conflict, how do new generations of young people learn about peace, justice, and democracy? Michelle J. Bellino describes how, following Guatemala’s civil war, adolescents at four schools in urban and rural communities learn about their country’s history of authoritarianism and develop civic identities within a fragile postwar democracy.

Through rich ethnographic accounts, Youth in Postwar Guatemala, traces youth experiences in schools, homes, and communities, to examine how knowledge and attitudes toward historical injustice traverse public and private spaces, as well as generations. Bellino documents the ways that young people critically examine injustice while shaping an evolving sense of themselves as civic actors. In a country still marked by the legacies of war and division, young people navigate between the perilous work of critiquing the flawed democracy they inherited, and safely waiting for the one they were promised.

Winner of the 2018 Comparative & International Education Society’s Jackie Kirk Outstanding Book Award

Winner of the 2018 Council on Anthropology of Education‘s Outstanding Book Award

Book Reviews

A heartbreakingly beautiful narrative account of how students and teachers at four very different Guatemalan secondary schools negotiate the complexities of history and identity. Bellino provides a brilliant model of nuanced inquiry into the vicissitudes of citizenship education for fragile democracies.” — Bradley Levinson, author of Beyond Critique: Exploring Critical Social Theories and Education

Youth in Postwar Guatemala is a gripping ethnographic portrait of learning to become civic actors in the face of enduring legacies of civil war. It challenges us to re-think basic assumptions about developing democratic citizenship education policies in post-conflict societies.” — Thea Renda Abu El-Haj, author of Unsettled Belonging: Educating Palestinian American Youth after 9/11

“Rich and reflexive account…a multifaceted narrative. This is thick description at its best, a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a complex and heart-breaking reality. It is a book which should be read by anyone carrying out research or working in development in Guatemala, especially those with a focus on youth empowerment.” — Fawzia Haeri Mazanderani & Marta Paluch, Anthropology in Action

“Bellino’s book can serve as an introduction for those seeking to understand what propels many Guatemalan migrant youth to leave.” — Martha C. Franco, ReVista

“Bellino invites us to adopt historical memory as a central dimension of citizenship. Youth in Postwar Guatemala is a study that will appeal to those in our field who are interested in historical memory, youth, citizenship, and anthropological approaches to violence.” — Diana Rodríguez-Gómez, Journal on Education in Emergencies

“Bellino convincingly argues, through the stories of young people, that a more peaceful future is possible, but it will require a deep understanding of the past and its place in contemporary Guatemalan life.” — James Miles, Theory & Research in Social Education