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A World of Gangs

A World of Gangs: Armed Young Men and Gangsta Culture

Volume: 14
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    A World of Gangs
    Book Description:

    John Hagedorn explores the international proliferation of the urban gang as a consequence of the ravages of globalization. Looking closely at gang formation in Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, and Capetown he discovers that gangs have institutionalized as a strategy to confront a hopeless cycle of poverty, racism, and oppression and provides vital insights into the ideology and persistence of gangs around the world._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5664-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. foreword Reading John Hagedorn
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    Mike Davis

    Symptomatic of a more profound fallacy, the Library of Congress bibliographic system makes the subject “street gangs” a subset of “social pathology,” when the accurate classification should be “urban history, street politics.” Gangs, in the most straightforward sense, mint power for the otherwise powerless from their control of small urban spaces: street corners, slums, playgrounds, parks, schools, prison dormitories, even garbage dumps. For poor youth lacking other resources, these informal spatial monopolies, if successfully defended and consolidated, provide some measure of entrepreneurial opportunity as well as local prestige and warrior glamour. Gangs also frequently act as neighborhood militias to police...

    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. introduction Why Are Gangs Everywhere?
    (pp. xxiii-xxxii)

    Violence by gangs and other groups of armed young men is a worldwide phenomenon. Gangs today play a significant role in all kinds of violence, from ethnic riots to drug market conflicts, even to working for local tyrants in enforcing “law and order.” While there have always been gangs, today’s urbanizing world is producing them faster than ever and in myriad forms and shapes. High levels of violence by “nonstate actors” like gangs or terrorists have been an unsettling aspect of globalization. The evidence I present in this book leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that gangs are not going away...

  6. I Globalizing Gangs

    • chapter 1 Ghetto, Favela, and Township: The Worlds Gangs Live In
      (pp. 3-10)

      I begin with a seldom-asked question: why do gangs in some cities come and go, as in New York, London, or Buenos Aires, while in other cities, such as Chicago, Cape Town, or Rio de Janeiro, they become permanent fixtures of the landscape? There have always been gangs or groups of armed young men who have persisted over decades—even centuries, like the Triads or Mafia. But in this era of globalization such institutionalized gangs may become more a norm than an anomaly.

      While others, such as Mike Davis, have called attention to the disturbing consequences of a “planet of...

    • chapter 2 Street Institutions: Why Some Gangs Won’t Go Away
      (pp. 11-22)

      Gangs in Chicago, Cape Town, and Rio de Janeiro have been operating for decades. This chapter seeks to understand how and why such gangs persist.

      The history of institutionalized gangs in these three cities, like that of any organization, is highly mythologized. In Chicago, gang members memorize the literature, laws, and prayers of their gang, and learn about past warriors and leaders, often with titles such as “kings” or “lords.”¹ Such histories are memorized by gang members in prison and handed down from veteran Original Gangsters (“OGs”) to eager young recruits. The Black Gangster Disciples have even put their history...

    • chapter 3 The Problem with Definitions: The Questionable Uniqueness of Gangs
      (pp. 23-32)

      How does one make sense of this description of gangs in Kano, Nigeria?

      Ayan daba (are) urban gangs who, through hunting and warrior traditions, have historical links to anti-colonial Islamic religious politics. These youths, highly skilled in the uses of weaponry and magic, have ambiguous roles in Muslim communities, where they have been employed by religious leaders to strong-arm public opinion. Ayan daba are considered “revolutionaries” who have Muslim ideologies and traditions. . . . (they sometimes) dress lavishly in a Muslim-style riga (dress), smoking a joint reminiscent of Cheech (’n Chong) slap a alamajiri (Qur’anic student) to the ground...

    • chapter 4 From Chicago to Mumbai: Touring the World of Gangs
      (pp. 33-50)

      What marks the form of the gang today worldwide is its flexibility, its ability to shift gears, to grow up from a wild peer group into an illicit business, working for political spoils or acting as thugs for ruling powers. As Michel Wieviorka observes in central Africa: “In Brazzaville the downwardly socially mobile youths form groups that, depending on the period, may be part of the political militia or again may be armed gangs.”¹ Thus gangs do not represent “stages” in some natural process of evolution, with unsupervised peer groups inevitably growing into “third generation” political gangs.² For example, in...

  7. II Race, Space, and the Power of Identity

    • chapter 5 No Way Out: Demoralization, Racism, and Resistance Identity
      (pp. 53-64)

      It should be no surprise that desperate conditions in ghettos, barrios, and favelas produce angry and alienated groups of armed young men and women. But the last section’s review of “the world of gangs” also emphasized the salience of ethnicity, race, and religion to gangs. Responses from the streets to marginalization are often deeply racialized or colored by ethnic or religious interpretations.

      Admittedly, not all gangs are from minority groups. The Nigerian Bakassi Boys, for example, defend the regional ruling Igbo group by terror and violence. Death squads are often composed of men from dominant groups that are threatened by...

    • chapter 6 A Tale of Two Gangs: The Hamburgs and the Conservative Vice Lords
      (pp. 65-84)

      Once upon a time there were two gangs. One was a good, civic gang. The other was a bad, violent gang. One gang has lasted for many decades, and its leaders became leading citizens of the city. The other gang has also been around for decades, but its leaders have been killed or sent to prison. One gang is predominately male, proud of its ethnic traditions and neighborhood, and its members are very prosperous. The other gang is also predominately male, proud of its ethnic traditions and neighborhood, but most of its members are poor and out of work. One...

    • chapter 7 Reconsidering Culture: Race, Rap, and Resistance
      (pp. 85-92)

      How can anyone understand the outlook of gang members today without exploring the meaning of gangsta rap? Rap is an immensely popular, worldwide cultural genre, its hardcore version sensationalizing the gangster lifestyle. But it has not been a topic considered particularly important by the field of criminology or the study of gangs. The lack of social science analysis of gangsta rap is a consequence of criminology’s systemic deracializing of both gangs and culture. It is a good example of what Robin D. G. Kelley means in his blistering critique of the lack of “complexity” in white social science.¹ This brief...

    • chapter 8 Street Wars: Hip-Hop and the Rise of Gangsta Culture
      (pp. 93-112)

      Hip-hop today is torn by a searing “culture war” between two different resistance identities: a defiant but life-affirming “black Atlantic hip-hop” and the consumer-oriented “corporate hip-hop” that now controls gangsta rap. This chapter seeks to understand the contradictions within hip-hop and how they shape, and are shaped by, the multiple conflicting identities of gang members.¹

      Rather than locate a “gang subculture” in different kinds of neighborhood “opportunity structures,” or as an epiphenomenon of larger, more “fundamental” structural forces, this chapter argues that hip-hop is a central way for gang members and other young people (and some not so young) to...

    • chapter 9 Contested Cities: Gentrification and the Ghetto
      (pp. 113-130)

      There is a common, if counterintuitive, factor that closely links gangs, the ghetto, violence, police, and the prison: gentrification. Investment bankers, high-priced professionals, and other “symbolic analysts” want to live near their colleagues and close to “where the action is” in refurbished, what they warmly call “charming,” spaces near the city center. If the ghetto and its gangs get in their way, then something’s got to give, and it probably will not be the “Starbucks Army.” This chapter is about the secret war now being waged over space in globalizing cities.

      In some cities, particularly in Europe, the poor and...

  8. conclusion A Rose in the Cracks of Concrete
    (pp. 131-144)

    This book has presented evidence that gangs, whether we like it or not, are a “normal” feature of cities worldwide. The reader of these pages may not want to admit it but may have to reluctantly recognize that this world of gangs will not go away soon, if at all. But what, then, should we do?

    In 1988 inPeople and FolksI opposed any programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice as merely stuffing more resources into an already bloated law enforcement machine. I have not changed my mind, and the machine is now more bloated than ever....

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 145-180)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 181-198)
    Denise E. Carlson
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-201)