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In this article John Pitts contrasts John Hegedorn's account of the proliferation of violent youth gangs with those of conventional gang scholars.
In the past few years, academics, practitioners and policy‐makers have wrestled with the problem of defining youth gangs and differentiating them from other youth groupings. This is partly because different contributors to the debate have been interested in gangs for different reasons, but also because the form that gangs take is often determined by local factors, which make producing a single generic definition difficult, if not impossible.
Purpose: This chapter outlines a cultural critique of the Gangsta as an exemplary figure to investigate the performance of social media identity. The main goal of the…
Purpose: This chapter outlines a cultural critique of the Gangsta as an exemplary figure to investigate the performance of social media identity. The main goal of the chapter is to illustrate some of the implications that social media have on the contemporary dramatization of the criminal, here framed as a collective techno-cultural process at the threshold between social stigma and branding. Despite using the term “Gangsta,” the author’s intent is not to “fix” this figure as an identity or a class of people, but rather to identify a broad cultural context that emerges from a glocalized hip-hop imaginary, stemming from gangsta rap and evolving alongside trap and drill.
Methodology/approach: The contribution is not intended as an empirical sociological study, but a critical cultural exploration of convergent media that bring together a glocalized gang culture and everyday social media interactions. In the second section, the author outlines his theoretical framework by identifying a point of convergence between recent studies of Instagram celebrities and criminological takes on the selective nature of gang identity. The author also explores the relationship between the “dissing,” a cultural form that is very relevant to the more aggressive sub-genres of rap, and the practice of tagging, a key affordance of social media platforms. In so doing, the author frames social media tagging as a form of identity labeling.
Findings: In light of the theory previously outlined, the author explains how tagging is used alternately to enforce social stigma and engage in recursive branding. The final section examines the aforementioned forms of tagging more in detail, in relation to specific media ecologies of YouTube videos that feature compilations of Instagram Stories originally posted by emerging Italian rappers.
Research limitations: Although it is aimed at offering an interdisciplinary contribution, this chapter adopts an admittedly media-focused perspective. Rather than producing more evidence about the use of social media by gangs, the author comments on existing sociological insight in relation to the affordances and esthetics of social media ecologies, re-problematizing certain forms of online interaction.
Originality/value: By focusing on the commonplace practice of tagging in relation to the figure of the Gangsta, the author emphasizes how online labeling practices can be more fraught that they appear, emphasizing the need for further critical reflections on the stereotyping potential of social media branding practices.
Purpose – Criminal groups have long been central to explanations of crime and deviance. Yet, challenges in measuring their dynamic and transient nature meant that…
Purpose – Criminal groups have long been central to explanations of crime and deviance. Yet, challenges in measuring their dynamic and transient nature meant that group-level explanations were often displaced in favor of individual-level ones. This chapter outlines how network methods provide a powerful tool for modeling the dynamic nature of criminal groups.
Approach – The chapter starts by providing a brief introduction to social network analysis, including key concepts and terminology. The chapter then focuses on the types of relational data available to study criminal groups, and how network methods can be used to delineate group boundaries. The chapter concludes by presenting a framework for understanding group dynamics from a network perspective, describing the contributions of network analysis to theories of group processes.
Findings – Network methods have provided meaningful advances to the study of group dynamics, leading scholars to revisit assumptions about the impact of group’ structure on delinquent behavior. Network studies of group dynamics have primarily focused on the cohesion–delinquency link (within-group structure) and the social contagion of conflict (between-group structure), highlighting important opportunities for the intersection of these two inquiries.
Value – Network methods provide a means to revisit and extend theories of crime and delinquency with a focus on social structure. The unique affinity between group dynamics and network methods highlights immense opportunities for expanding the knowledge of collective trajectories.
In 1987, the City of Los Angeles instituted the first gang injunction in the country. Gang injunctions are pursued through the civil courts to seriously restrict the…
In 1987, the City of Los Angeles instituted the first gang injunction in the country. Gang injunctions are pursued through the civil courts to seriously restrict the activities and movement of suspected gang members and affiliates. People who have been served with a gang injunction are often prohibited from everyday activities, such as wearing sports jerseys, talking to other gang members, and being out in public past curfew, regardless of age. Though often justified by law enforcement as a necessary tool to fight gang violence, we argue that gang injunctions are similar to Slave Codes, Black Codes, and Jim Crow laws, which established a separate system of justice based on race. As such, gang injunctions serve as an extension of an apartheid-like system of justice that seriously limits the life opportunities of people of color within gang injunction territories.
This chapter draws upon the oral histories of people targeted by gang injunction laws within California, paying particular attention to how gang-identified individuals are surveiled, controlled, and confined.
Gang injunctions operate on an apartheid-like justice system that punishes perceived gang members harsher than non-gang members. These laws affirm the legal tactics that maintain racial boundaries and promote a system of justice that mirrors the Black Codes following the end of slavery. The evidence suggests that gang injunctions solely target low-income youth of color, who have been identified as gang members and served with injunctions.
Despite the ubiquity of gang injunctions within California, there is little research on gang injunctions, and even less literature on how these injunctions shape the life course of suspected gang members. We attempt to address this gap in the literature by showing how gang injunctions are not simply about fighting crime, but rather they are a tool used to control and corral communities of color.
Purpose – This chapter explores a necessarily ambivalent approach to gang members at an inner-city alternative high school, Choices Alternative Academy (CAA), as staff…
Purpose – This chapter explores a necessarily ambivalent approach to gang members at an inner-city alternative high school, Choices Alternative Academy (CAA), as staff must both accommodate and monitor their often troubled students.
Methodology – The methodology of this study is ethnographic, drawing from participant observation carried out over the course of four years, and 65 informal, semistructured interviews of a theoretical, purposive, snowball sample.
Findings – Staff in schools dominated by gang members must both accommodate and control them, which are often contradictory practices.
Research limitations/implications – As a case study of a single alternative school, the study is limited in scope, but comprehensive in depth, as observations were conducted over a four-year period. Future research may focus on the relationship of teacher experience and expertise to the desire to acknowledge the presence of gangs.
Practical implications – The chapter advocates the utility of an ambivalent approach toward gang members in policy discussions, acknowledging the wide variety of discourses possible in regard to gang members.
Originality/Value of the Paper – While most studies of schools and gangs focus on large, mainstream schools, this study is unique for focusing on a school that specifically serves gang members and the difficulties and dilemmas involved in that task.