Street Violence across the World
Publication Year: 2014
Gangs, often associated with brutality and senseless destructive violence, have not always been viewed as inherently antagonistic. The first studies of gangs depicted them as alternative sources of order in urban slums where the state’s authority was lacking, and they have subsequently been shown to be important elements in some youth life cycles. Despite their proliferation there is little consensus regarding what constitutes a gang. Used to denote phenomena ranging from organized crime syndicates to groups of youths who gather spontaneously on street corners, even the term “gang” is ambiguous.
Global Gangs offers a greater understanding of gangs through essays that investigate gangs spanning across nations, from Brazil to Indonesia, China to Kenya, and from El Salvador to Russia. Volume editors Jennifer M. Hazen and Dennis Rodgers bring together contributors who examine gangs from a comparative perspective, discussing such topics as the role the apartheid regime in South Africa played in the emergence of gangs, the politics behind child vigilante squads in India, the relationship between immigration and gangs in France and the United States, and the complex stigmatization of youths in Mexico caused by the arbitrary deployment of the word “gang.”
Featuring an afterword by renowned U.S. gang researcher Sudhir Venkatesh, this volume provides a comprehensive look into the experience of gangs across the world and in doing so challenges conventional notions of identity.
Contributors: Enrique Desmond Arias, George Mason U; José Miguel Cruz, Florida International U; Steffen Jensen, DIGNITY–Danish Institute Against Torture; Gareth A. Jones, London School of Economics and Political Science; Marwan Mohammed, École Normale Supérieure, Paris; Jacob Rasmussen, Roskilde U; Loren Ryter, U of Michigan; Rustem R. Safin, National Research Technological U, Russia; Alexander L. Salagaev, National Research Technological U, Russia; Atreyee Sen, U of Manchester; Mats Utas, Nordic Africa Institute; Sudhir Venkatesh, Columbia U; James Diego Vigil, U of California, Irvine; Lening Zhang, Saint Francis U.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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Introduction: Gangs in a Global Comparative Perspective
Dennis Rodgers and Jennifer M. Hazen
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Frequently depicted as an almost pathological form of brutality, gangs are ubiquitously associated with senselessly destructive violence and have become popular bugbears and scapegoats. This is currently perhaps most obvious in the case of contemporary Central America, where gangs—known as pandillas and maras—are widely perceived as the most important security threat within a post–Cold War panorama of...
Part I. Gang Formation and Transformation
1. Intimate Connections: Gangs and the Political Economy of Urbanization in South Africa
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Gangs and gang culture have occupied central positions in the imaginaries and anxieties of mainstream society in South Africa for more than a century. In Cape Town, gangs, both yesterday and today, are said to constitute one of the most serious threats to the fabric of society. To some extent, the fears and anxieties are warranted, but the phenomenon of gangs must be explored in more detail to understand both when and how gangs are a problem and when the problems emerge from...
2. Cholo!: The Migratory Origins of Chicano Gangs in Los Angeles
James Diego Vigil
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Waves of migration since the 1850s have brought Mexican immigrants to the streets of Los Angeles in large numbers. The limited opportunities available to the new arrivals led to the emergence of segregated neighborhoods and increased poverty and marginalization of the Chicano population. Poverty further reduced traditional social controls on youth and schools, and law enforcement proved incapable of providing external controls on youth behavior. Instead, street socialization provided...
3. Capitalizing on Change: Gangs, Ideology, and the Transition to a Liberal Economy in the Russian Federation
Alexander L. Salagaev and Rustem R. Safin
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During the 1960s and early 1970s, youth crime rates in the Soviet Union were widely reported to be declining, alongside a general decrease in the number of crimes committed by organized delinquent groups. This trend led Soviet officials to formally proclaim the end of “banditry.” This situation did not last, however, and by the late 1970s, youth gangs had become quite widespread in the Soviet Union. Their spread was clearly ...
4. Of Marginality and “Little Emperors”: The Changing Reality of Chinese Youth Gangs
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Youth gangs and gang-related crime in China were rare and were not considered a social problem during the 1950s and 1960s. The nation had very low crime rates and was even viewed as a “crime-free” society (Fairbank 1987; Rojek 1996). Official statistics indicate that China had only five to six criminal cases per one hundred thousand inhabitants annually during this time period (Dai 2001). However, since the nation ...
5. From Black Jackets to Zulus: Social Imagination, Myth, and Reality Concerning French Gangs
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Youth gangs in France are frequently invoked in public debates but are arguably rarely coherently characterized.1 On one hand, they are generally seen to constitute a critical social danger, one that inherently threatens the fabric of society owing to their intimate association with violence. At the same time, however, they are also considered to be fundamentally the “other”—spatially excluded social forms that are...
6. Maras and the Politics of Violence in El Salvador
José Miguel Cruz
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Where does Mara Salvatrucha come from? How did the U.S.-born Eighteenth Street Gang become a powerhouse of the Salvadoran streets? The Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, and the Eighteenth Street Gang, branded also as Barrio 18, are the two major youth gangs in El Salvador and Central America. According to different sources (Aguilar and Miranda 2006; USAID 2006), between 2002 and 2006, both gangs comprised more than 87 percent of gang membership in ...
Part II. Problematizing Gangs
7. Youth Gangs and Otherwise in Indonesia
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In December 2008, Japto Soerjosoemarno, until today the unchallenged leader of Pemuda Pancasila, or Pancasila Youth,1 by all accounts the most powerful youth gang in Indonesia during the last decades of Suharto’s rule, denied that his youth gang had ever existed (pers. comm., December 23, 2008).2 The reason for his denial, and the outright mendacity of it, says much about the nature of youth gangs in Indonesia. It illustrates the degree to which youth gangs learned to thrive as long as...
8. “Playing the Game”: Gang–Militia Logics in War-Torn Sierra Leone
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When I recently read Sudhir Venkatesh’s (2008) Gang Leader for a Day, I was struck by the feeling of total familiarity. I felt that I knew the setting and the actors to the extent that I could almost guess what would happen on the next page. In particular, the similarities were striking between the lives of the Black Kings, the Chicago Southside gang Venkatesh studied, and the ex-combatant street corner youths with whom...
9. “For Your Safety”: Child Vigilante Squads and Neo-Gangsterism in Urban India
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In December 2003, riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims in the northern quarters of Hyderabad, a communally (religiously) sensitive city in southern India. Arshed, a ten-year- old boy from a slum area that was particularly affected by the rising interreligious tensions, was sent off for safekeeping to his uncle’s house in another part of the city. His brother, a six-year- old, remained behind as his parents were sure...
10. “We Are the True Blood of the Mau Mau”: The Mungiki Movement in Kenya
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During the past decade, the Mungiki movement in Kenya has gained a reputation as one of East Africa’s most dangerous criminal organizations. For example, following a visit to Nairobi as part of his global tour investigating the world’s “worst gangs,” the British actor turned popular journalist Ross Kemp (2008, 167) described Mungiki as having a reputation for “cutting off people’s heads, arms and other parts of the anatomy”...
11. Gang Politics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Enrique Desmond Arias
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In May 2002, Tim Lopes, a reporter for the Globo media conglomerate, Brazil’s largest television network and the publisher of Rio’s most important newspaper, went to the favela (shantytown) of Vila Cruzeiro on Rio’s working-class north side to report on rumors that drug dealers paid adolescent girls to perform sexual acts at the favela’s gang-sponsored baile funk (funk dance ball). The reporter had a history of...
12. “Hecho en México”: Gangs, Identities, and the Politics of Public Security
Gareth A. Jones
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As I sit on the pavement with a group of young people passing the time near a bustling market in the city of Puebla, central Mexico, I listen to Ramón as he describes his worries over recent events. He is uncharacteristically nervous, unable to sit still, and his eyes are scanning the street. During our previous meetings, Ramón would take little notice as passers-by shot disapproving glances at his often bare-chested, muscular, ...
Afterword: The Inevitable Gang
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Rodgers and Hazen sum up the motivating spirit behind Global Gangs succinctly when they write that this volume highlights the “socially embedded nature of all gangs, regardless of their location, and how different environments can affect their origins and their transformation.” In the area of gang studies, this is no small accomplishment. Gangs perplex us. All manner of explanation—biological, genetic, psychological, ...
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Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2014