Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Abstract

Added to the paucity of critical lenses through which the gang has been viewed criminologically is the increasing influence of the US criminal justice system on the global gang discourse. Such a lens has increased in importance as many nation states have followed the example of US repressive gang policies in thinking about crime and deviance, essentially mirroring its adoption of neo-liberalism in thinking about the political economy. In such an approach it is assumed that a coercive social control system is required to discipline and warehouse those “problem populations” excluded by the concentration of wealth and power. Across the globe, we observe the spread of highly punitive and criminalizing policies in crusades against the Other, resulting in extreme levels of social harm and little curtailment of the targeted behavior—an outcome predicted by adherents of deviance amplification theory. Thus, the gang as one of society’s chief enemies, has a ubiquitous presence, becoming a key “floating” signifier in policing and regulating public and private spaces, all of which relate to protecting, reproducing, and reinforcing race/ethnic and class structures in the service of wealth and capital accumulation. It is my contention that a critical ethnographic approach to studies of the gang can be part of the resistance to this dynamic or at least thwart orthodox criminology’s complicity in the process.

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