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Who You Claim

Performing Gang Identity in School and on the Streets

Robert Garot, 0, 0

Publication Year: 2010

“Path breaking and precedent-setting. Robert Garot has appreciated what no one has before, the essential shadow quality of urban gangs, which are not so much things one can be in as they are things danced around, avoided, played with, and very occasionally, practically invoked.”

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page

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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

While whatever fault lies in this manuscript is my own, the possibility to write it, in all its stages, occurred only out of a confluence of others’ goodwill. First and foremost, I thank the young people at Choices Alternative Academy (CAA [pseudonym]), who shared with me both their lives at the school and their life histories, ...

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Preface: Emily’s Tale

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pp. ix-xi

I am often asked how I was able to study gang members. Mostly, I have Emily to thank. When I entered her classroom and the rest of the students ignored me, Emily came and asked for help, easing the painful awkwardness of not belonging. Her long black hair flowed over a lacy, off-white long-sleeved blouse with a little tie ...

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1. Gang Identity as Performance

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pp. 1-20

Over the past fifty years, social scientists have increasingly turned from essentializing identity as a fixed characteristic to understanding identity as fluid, contextual, and shifting. Through dress, mannerisms, and language, individuals make and dispute claims to identity based in socially recognized categories, and such claims and ...

Part I Alienation in School

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2. Moral Dramas at School

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pp. 23-44

A chicken and egg question haunts studies of school achievement and, by extension, criminology: Is it the behavior of students or that of schools that seals certain students’ subordination? Paul Willis classically demonstrated how the students themselves, acting out of an awareness of their limited class position and their ...

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3. The Contradictions of Controlling Student Dress

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pp. 45-66

This book shows how students’ resistance in school, as well as their experiences with gangs and fights, arises out of an environment replete with deeply alienating experiences. Others have focused on the alienation experienced in repetitive, low-wage service jobs, at home watching TV, or “doing nothing.”1 ...

Part II Performing Gang Identity on the Streets

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4. Claims

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pp. 69-91

Part I of this book showed how young people, subject to a disorganized curriculum, lackadaisical and accusatory teachers, and arbitrarily imposed dress codes that are based on a systematic misunderstanding of the meanings of their clothing choices, were not recognized for their humanity or potential. Part II now focuses on the ...

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5. Affiliations

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pp. 92-118

There are many different aspects of identity and situated ways to present them. Chapter 4 probed the variable, contingent ways in which young people may perform gang identity by hitting up. The skills and dangers involved in this situated interaction ritual provide a lively means to escape the oppressive, alienating institutional ...

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6. Violence and Nonviolence

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pp. 119-142

The most powerful challenge another can make is to one’s face—how one sees oneself in relation to community.1 Especially when one’s identity is vulnerable, one may be prone to defend it physically. In an ecology where everyone’s identity is vulnerable because of the marginalization and alienation ...

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7. Avoiding Retaliation

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pp. 143-160

In the moment of righteous indignation experienced when one has been wronged, one faces a crucial moment of choice, to decide to accept and live with the wrong that has been done (to “lump it”) or to retaliate.1 It is worthwhile to appreciate this gap between cause and effect, at least to recognize the myriad ...

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8. Streetwork

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pp. 161-174

Writing is a shallow reflection of experience. Up to this point, the narrative has moved from case to case in order to build or contradict an analysis. Fortunately, life doesn’t work this way. To understand the central theme of this book, that gang or street identity is a strategic resource, we need a more in-depth view of a single individual, ...

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pp. 175-184

The morality of ethnographic representation continually haunts ethnographic practice. From the travelers’ and missionaries’ accounts of savages that provided the troubling foundation for anthropology to contemporary studies of the near and the far, there is no escaping the moral, political context of observations. ...

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pp. 185-200

The area, still mostly undeveloped years after riots had destroyed many businesses, seemed to consist primarily of windowless churches and liquor stores among the empty lots. Over the years, community organizing reduced the number of liquor stores while storefront, community-based organizations multiplied. ...


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pp. 201-228


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pp. 229-248


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pp. 249-259

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About the Author

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pp. 260

Robert Garot is Assistant Professor of Sociology in the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

E-ISBN-13: 9780814732359
E-ISBN-10: 0814732356
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814732120
Print-ISBN-10: 0814732127

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2010