Gangs in the Global City
May 16 and 17, 2002. Chicago, IL
The Gangs in the Global City conference was successfully completed and papers are now being revised for a volume to by published by the University of Illinois Press. This site will follow up the conference and publish related materials.
One important site is the Street Organization Project which held an international conference in May of 2001.
Funding: The Chicago Seminar and Dennis Judd, The Great Cities Institute, and the UIC College of Lettters and Sciences.
The Original Call for a Conference, by John M. Hagedorn, University of Illinois-Chicago
Introduction: John M. Hagedorn
Joan Moore looks at the implications of globalization
for female gangs. While the uncertainties of the fast-changing global
economy have been routinely applied to male gang members, few studies
place girls and women in the same context. Moore reviews the scant global
literature on female gang with particular attention to Muslim female peer
groups. Joachim Kersten looks looks at the conditions in Germany
after reunification and their influence on different types of violent
male groups, particularly skinheads. Luis Barrios completes this
section with an essay about the spirituality of the Almighty Latin King
and Queen Nation in New York City. Barrios exploration of religious identity
of gangs adds to an understanding of the importance of identity in the
V. The Challenge to Criminology: A Critique
The Contribution to Knowledge
The best way to understand the need for this volume is to review the history of gang research, which has been arrested within an American criminological tradition. The first studies in Chicago in the 1920s found gangs as second generation peer groups, conflicting with both the authorities and traditional culture. Gangs were foundin the "intersticies" of poor communities, a temporary phenomena of the "disorganized" neighborhoods of upwardlymobile immigrant Europeans.
By the 1960s, the ethnicity of gangs had changed, but the concepts used to understand them had not. Shaw and McKay had described the stability of crime rates in Chicago neighborhoods despite changes in ethnicity, and gang research relied on these concepts. But the "ethnic succession" ecological notions of the social reformers of the Chicago School were inadequate to describe the more permanent segregated ghettoes of Chicago's Black Belt (Bernard 1970). They also were never quite up to snuff to capture the Hispanic experience of immigration (Moore 1978). Female gangs seem to have not figured much in research (Campbell 1990: Chesney-Lind and Hagedorn 1999).
But in the 1970s, one thing did change. A criminalizing of the definition of gangs occurred, led by Walter Miller (1975)and Malcolm Klein (1971). The mainly Black and Latino gangs of US cities were now seen primarily as a "crime problem," not a specific type of social organization, responding to urban conditions. A War on Gangs (Fry 1973) was declared in Chicago, shattering past policies of youth development. The Justice Department funded a law enforcement build-up to suppress the gang problem. At this point, gangs were solely an American problem, with few if any reports of gangs overseas and almost no attention to gender.
But the 1980s brought several changes to the nature of American gangs, and the beginnings of gangs as global phenomena.Deindustrialization altered the maturing out process for many minority US gangs, with their members staying in the gang as adults. Drug markets became a major economic force in poor communities, with gangs as key players (Fagan 1996; Hagedorn 1998b). As industrial jobs were lost, the underground or informal economy, well known in Latin America and the Third World (Portes and Sassen-koob 1987; , began to grow in US cities (Hagedorn 1998a). An international drug market helped organize cartels and syndicates with links to gangs and drug sellers within cities across the world. With movies having become the US's chief export (Thurow 1996), cultural diffusion of gang life-style took place (Short 1997). The role of women within economically based male dominated gangs became problematic (Padilla 1993).
By the 1990s, more changes in the world economy added to the transformation of gangs well underway in the United States. The fall of the Soviet Union and the socialist countries found some countries and areas of countries experiencing desperate conditions. "Gangster capitalism" in the former socialist countries was echoed by an underground economy of half GNP, about the same as many Third World countries. This uneven development saw alienation and rebellion in some areas, but less in other more prosperous zones. Immigration flows sought out the advancing areas of the European economy and left behind the war-torn, pre-information era places. Drug networks often follow immigrant "guest workers" as they struggle for a better life. Immigrant flows to the US and other western countries have unique characteristics (Vigil and Yun 1998).
In the Third World, gangs changed in two directions. Some, like in Jamaica (Gunst 1995), moved from politics to the world of international drug sales. They immigrated to the US and captured local drug markets, often violently. Turkish immigrants to Germany and Moroccan immigrants to the Netherlands also became entwined with the drug cartels. At the same time, other gangs became politicized, like those in New Guinea (Dinnen 1998) and emphasized ethnic and national traditions as a way to resist globalization.
Likewise in the US, some cities experienced vast reductions in homicide and crime as their economies boom, while others did not. The traditional spaces of gangs near central business districts became contested by gentrification and development, pushing the gang and drug networks outward toward the suburbs. Gangs appear to be vacating some areas, some moving elsewhere, but others disbanding or fading away.
The Conference and Volume
It is the contention of this volume and conference that gangs are conscious organizations within poor communities responding the conditions of globalization, just as they had responded to the conditions of industrialization. To see gangs as just a form of organized crime is to tear the organization of people in poor communities from its economic and cultural context. Similarly, to see gangs across the globe as all close cousins of the wild peer groups of Thrasher's day, would be mistaken.
What is called for is the attention of gang research to the investigations of urban political economy, and the impact of the new economy on the spaces of the city. The rise of some regions, cities, and areas within cities, and the decline of others, is an uninvestigated, but certainly significant, aspect of the global gang problem. Likewise, the invasion of traditional gang spaces by the middle class in cities like Chicago, as segregated, socially isolated areas shift outward ,needs attention.
The proposed volume would be based on a working conference, funded by sources at UIC in conjunction with the Chicago Seminar. Invitations will be sent to scholars around the world to present formal papers on globalization and gangs. The emphasis of the volume would not be on case studies, but on theory generation, to reconceptualize gangs as responsive to globalization, social organization in the information age. The volume will be selected based on rigourous review of the papers by the conferees during the two day session.
Bernard, Jesse. 1970. The Sociology of Community. Glenview, Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Company.
Campbell, Anne. 1990. "Female Participation in Gangs." Pp. 163-182 in Gangs In America, edited by Ron C. Huff. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Castells, Manuel. 1998. The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture.Volue III: End of Millennium. Malden, Mass: Blackwell.
Chesney-Lind, Meda, and John M. Hagedorn (Eds.). 1999. Female Gangs in America:
Essays on Girls, Gangs, and Gender.
Chicago: Lakeview Press.
Dinnen, Sinclair. 1998. "Urban Raskolism and Criminal Groups in Papua
New Guinea." Pp. 267-305 in Gangs and Youth Subcultures:
International Explorations, edited by Kayleen Hazlehurst and Cameron Hazlehurst. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Fagan, Jeffrey. 1996. "Gangs, Drugs, and Neighborhood Change." Pp.
39-74 in Gangs in America: Second Edition, edited by Ronald C. Huff.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Fry, John R.. 1973. Locked-Out Americans: A Memoir. New York: Harper & Row.
Gunst, Laurie. 1995. Born Fi' Dead: A Journey Through th Jamaican Posse Underworld. New York: Henry Holt & Company.
Hagedorn, John M. 1998a. People and Folks: Gangs, Crime, and the Underclass
in a Rustbelt City: Second Edition
. Chicago: Lakeview Press.
1998b. "Post-Industrial Gang Violence." Pp. 457-511 in
Youth Violence, edited by Michael Tonry and Mark H. Moore.
Chicago: University of Chicago.
Klein, Malcolm. 1971. Street Gangs and Street Workers. Engelwood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Miller, Walter. 1975. "Violence by Youth Gangs and Youth Groups as a Crime
Problem in Major American Cities." .
Washington, D.C.: US Department of Justice.
Moore, Joan W. 1978. Homeboys: Gangs, Drugs, and Prison in the Barrios of Los Angeles. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Padilla, Felix M., and Lourdes Santiago. 1993. Outside the Wall: A Puerto Rican Woman's Struggle. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers.
Portes, Alejandro, and Saskia Sassen-Koob. 1987. "Making it Underground:
Material on the Informal Sector in
Western Market Economies." American Journal of Sociologiy 93:30-61.
Sassen, Saskia. 1991. The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Short, James F. Jr. 1997. Poverty, Ethnicity and Violent Crime. Boulder, CO: Wesstview Press.
Thurow, Lester C. 1997. The Future of Capitalism: How Today's Economic Forces Shae Tomorrow's Wrold. New York: Penguin Books.
Vigil, James Diego, and Steve Chong Yun. 1998. "Vietmanese Youth Gangs
in the Context of Multiple Marginality
and the Los Angeles Youth Gang Phenomenon." Pp. 117-139 in Gangs and Youth Subcultures: International Explorations,
edited by Kayleen Hazlehurst and Cameron Hazlehurst. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.