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Youth Gangs and Street Children

Youth Gangs and Street Children: Culture, Nurture and Masculinity in Ethiopia

Paula Heinonen
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 180
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  • Book Info
    Youth Gangs and Street Children
    Book Description:

    The rapidly expanding population of youth gangs and street children is one of the most disturbing issues in many cities around the world. These children are perceived to be in a constant state of destitution, violence and vagrancy, and therefore must be a serious threat to society, needing heavy-handed intervention and 'tough love' from concerned adults to impose societal norms on them and turn them into responsible citizens. However, such norms are far from the lived reality of these children. The situation is further complicated by gender-based violence and masculinist ideologies found in the wider Ethiopian culture, which influence the proliferation of youth gangs. By focusing on gender as the defining element of these children's lives - as they describe it in their own words - this book offers a clear analysis of how the unequal and antagonistic gender relations that are tolerated and normalized by everyday school and family structures shape their lives at home and on the street.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-099-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    This book is based on six years of ethnographic research among homeless youth gangs and home-living street children in Addis Ababa. It has evolved over subsequent years of follow-up research and further reflection on the cumulative causes and consequences of persistent poverty and gross inequalities in Ethiopia. It attempts to combine theme, places and the voices of individual children and parents to elucidate the problem surrounding gang life and streetism,¹ without resorting to stereotyping and simplifications. It also deals with socio-economic factors that commonly affect their everyday well-being.

    The rapidly expanding population of youth gangs and street children is one...

  5. 1 Ethiopia
    (pp. 17-29)

    Ethiopia is situated in the northeast corner of the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Djibouti and Somalia in the east, by Kenya in the south, by the Sudan in the west and by Eritrea in the north. The country is as large as France and Spain combined and covers a total area of some 1,221,000 square kilometres. After the establishment of the newly created State of Eritrea in 1992, Ethiopia lost its nine hundred kilometres of coastline along the Red Sea and is now a land-locked country.

    The geography of the country is characterised by a variety of...

  6. 2 Yilunta: Shame, Honour and Family Pride
    (pp. 30-45)

    In spite of the ethnic and religious diversity already described, there are shared cultural references in the ‘wider Ethiopian culture’, in which masculinity and femininity are powerful social-control mechanisms. Even though both concepts project complex, changeable, multiple and contradictory symbolic interpretations and lived-in realities, masculine identity is valued over feminine identity. This gender-based ideology is produced, shaped and maintained by social conventions and habitual practices. The subordinate status of Ethiopian women is based on deep-rooted traditional values and beliefs, which transcend ethnicity and religion. This endorses a form of sanctioned domination of men over women because qualities deemed masculine, such...

  7. 3 Son of a Woman
    (pp. 46-88)

    There is still a lack of consensus about the definition and classification of street children (see Swart 1990; Cosgrove 1990; Barker and Knaul 1991; Rosa et al. 1992; Oritz et al.1992; Lucchini 1993; Tyler 1997). The phenomenon has in fact become one of those controversial issues where everyone’s argument seems to be valid. Lewis Aptekar (1993), for example, contends that there are no street children in the USA or in the developed world. This is because the degree to which children, particularly school-age children, are left to fend for themselves is greatly restricted by the State interceding to care for...

  8. 4 Borco: The Give and Take of Gang Membership
    (pp. 89-130)

    The literature on youth gangs reveals the breadth and depth of the now globalized terrain of gang research (see Schneider and Tilley 2004). Although the termgangis used universally by researchers, police, social workers, media and the general public, there is still a lack of definitional consensus on the term. The central theoretical assumption within ethnographic and survey research is that youth gangs are social groups bounded by common affiliation and this separates them from other street youths. Membership of the group feeds their common need for supportive networks, identity, protection, power and solidarity. These bonds are bolstered by...

  9. 5 Sex, Girls and Gang Life
    (pp. 131-149)

    Zelalem’s gang were all under fifteen when I first met them. The other two all-male gangs were in the thirteen to seventeen age groups. The mixed-sex gang that I followed next consisted of boys from nine to twenty-four and girls under sixteen. The painful, not to say confused, transition from childish naivety to adulthood all children go through has already been the subject of anthropological enquiry (see Le Vine and New 2008). As David Bainbridge (2009) has shown, even in ‘normal’ settings, teenage years contain the most intense physical, emotional and mental experiences of our lives and can leave us...

  10. Discussion and Conclusion
    (pp. 150-157)

    This book is an account of how Ethiopian society acts upon its children when they are too young to take action against it. The childhood of members of youth gangs that I have depicted were in all ways precarious, each experience being amplified by a lack of safety and certainty. Conversely, home-based street children have a family with its own secrets and needs, which binds them together by a nexus of loyalties and love. These are not dysfunctional families. As a whole, home life offered the children the warmth, contact, unbreakable loyalty and an intense sense of belonging they needed....

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 158-164)
  12. Index
    (pp. 165-169)