In recent years, Latin America has seen a rise in violence and crime, which has been largely attributed to youth gangs. Yet harsh anti-gang legislation and other repressive measures have failed to stop this trend. Social programmes for youth involved in gangs have had only limited effects, partly because many of them lack a sound problem analysis. This book aims to contribute to a better understanding of the youth gang phenomenon in Peru and Latin America, in general. It provides an ethnographic study of youth gangs, the so-called manchas, in Ayacucho, a region in the Peruvian Andes. The study adopts an interdisciplinary and participatory approach and rejects the widespread view of youth gangs as inherently violent and criminal groups. Instead, it is argued that young people join manchas to achieve a positive social identity and enhance their social status. Moreover, the violence committed by manchas is a response to experiences of domestic, institutional, structural and symbolic violence. The book will be of particular interest to students and scholars of Latin American studies, anthropology and sociology, but will be equally useful to practitioners working with youth at risk.