On SAGE Insight: Gang glocalization: How the global mediascape creates and shapes local gang realities

From Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal

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This article introduces the concept of ‘gang glocalization’ to capture the processes by which global media myths and conventions create and shape local gang realities. The different stages of gang glocalization, and the motives to engage in this process, are examined by comparison of two empirical cases – Congolese gangs in Brussels and Afro-Caribbean gangs in London. The word glocalization, a combination of globalization and localization, originated in Japanese business practices, but when it is applied to explain broader cultural projects, it captures the adaptation of global artefacts around the particularities of the local culture in which they appear.

Authors find that the driving force behind gang glocalization is emotions and desires. The global and the local interact when the local emotional climate, shaped by discrimination, racism and social exclusion, merges with young people’s experience of the narrative world depicted in gang fiction. ‘gang parading’ is more integral to the gang’s existence than crime as it makes otherwise ‘unimaginable, transcendent possibilities now sensed as real’. Parading, referred to as ‘loafing’ by Thrasher (1927), entails loitering in public space, which may seem pointless to the casual observer, but is highly meaningful in practice because it is transforms public space into a ‘staging area’.

This research relies on concepts at the heart of many anthropological and sociological global studies. The study represents a compromise between academic quality standards and the practical considerations of ethnographic research. It is an imperfect endeavour. The different foci of the respective data sources meant that they were not entirely compatible. This study provides new insights into how globalization affects gangs, but also complements the contributions of gang researchers who have considered gangs as glocal phenomena. Mythmaking occurs because of emotional needs and desires that originate in the interaction between communities, individuals and societies. Experiences of racism, discrimination and deprivation can flow through ethnic minority communities and merge with the emotions that drive the production of a fictive representation. Gangs emerge from our collective imaginations about gangs, fostered by movies and other gang representations that run through the mediascape and, in turn, inform the ‘conventional signals’ of gangs. Hence, gang glocalization also contributes to our knowledge about the processes that create the ‘symbolic organisation’ of gangs.

Abstract

This article introduces the concept of ‘gang glocalization’ to capture the processes by which global media myths and conventions create and shape local gang realities. The different stages of gang glocalization, and the motives to engage in this process, are examined by comparison of two empirical cases – Congolese gangs in Brussels and Afro-Caribbean gangs in London. This multi-sited ethnography finds that youth use fiction and imagination in order to create individual and collective gang identities. Police and political action against gangs is then informed by the same fiction and imagination, resulting in new gang realities based not on what is real. We find that mythmaking is an essential aspect of gangs – without the myth there is no gang – and that imagination is at the core of some of its most harmful activities, namely spectacular symbolic violence. This is an update on Thrasher’s (1927) old themes. The driving forces behind gang glocalization are emotions and desires tied to lived experiences of social and cultural exclusion. Implications for research and practice follow.

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Article details
Gang glocalization: How the global mediascape creates and shapes local gang
realities
Elke Van Hellemont, James A Densley
First Published March 7, 2018 Research Article
DOI: 10.1177/1741659018760107
Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal

     
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