This article focuses on processes of urban confinement, and the fact that these often do not generate significant forms of political contestation, despite their obviously negative socio-spatial consequences. Drawing on longitudinal ethnographic fieldwork begun in 1996 in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, it begins by describing a specific instance of urban confinement illustrating what Merrifield (2014) has aptly described as ‘neo-Haussmannisation’. It then goes on to explore how this can have variable consequences through four ‘archetypal’ gang member life trajectories, in particular showing how contestation is only one of several possible reactions to urban confinement, and that its emergence is based on a very particular dialectical articulation of agency and space.