"For me, they were the good old days": retrospective narratives of childhood experiences in ‘the gang’

Maitra, Dev Rup (2020) "For me, they were the good old days": retrospective narratives of childhood experiences in ‘the gang’. Geneology, 4 (1). pp. 71-82. ISSN 2313-5778

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Much of the existing scholarship on gang membership predominantly focuses on adolescence as being the formative time period for the development of gang identities; however, there has thus far been more limited attention towards the childhood experiences of gang members, (i.e. pre-adolescence). The organising principle of this paper is to articulate the retrospective accounts of gang members’ childhoods, and how these recollections form a central role to the emergence of gang identities. The data presented in this paper were collected during fieldwork in two adult, men’s prisons in England; interviews were conducted with 60 active and former prison gang members, identified through prison databases; a small number (n=9) of interviews were conducted with ‘street’ participants, such as ex-offenders, outreach workers and gang researchers. This paper aims to show that many gang members romanticize accounts of their childhoods, in spite of often having experienced adverse childhood experiences: similar to Lauger’s (2016) theorisation around the ‘myth making’ of adult gang activity, so too do many gang members view their childhood experiences as part of their mythologized narrative of life in ‘the gang’. Nevertheless, a tension exists between how gang members seek to portray their childhood experiences around gangs, and the negative labelling and strain they experienced during their childhood; often, romanticized accounts seek to retrospectively neutralise these harms In so doing, the lens through which childhood gang membership is viewed is one which conceptualizes childhood gang involvement as being something non-deleterious, thus acting as a lens that attempts to neutralize the harms and vicissitudes of gang affiliation .

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: street gangs, youth gangs, youth violence, childhood
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Business & Applied Social Science > Department of Arts & Humanities
Depositing User: Dev rup Maitra
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2020 10:43
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2020 10:43
URI: https://oars.uos.ac.uk/id/eprint/1318

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