321.3 Defending your people: The role of street gangs in maintaining the integrity of economically deprived communities

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 1:00 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Sinead GORMALLY , Social Justice Development Officer, The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, Ireland
Howard SERCOMBE , Community Education, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland
Standard sociological and journalistic narratives of street youth gangs
tend to emphasise dysfunction, disorganisation, crime and violence. In
Glasgow, however, many street gangs have long histories, sometimes
stretching back a century or more. No social institution survives over
this kind of time frame without also contributing to the community in
which it lives and moves and has its being.
Through a participant observation study across two Glasgow communities,
this research inquires into the agreement that exists between a gang and
its community, finding a role for the gang in maintaining community
solidarity against the incursions not only of neighbouring gangs but of
the impositions of the organs of the state and civil society. We argue
that the benefits of civil society in the rule of law and a neutral
police force, education provision, democratic engagement and equal
opportunity for advancement do not obtain for these communities, and are
experienced more often as invasions and attacks on their integrity.
Under these circumstances, in important respects, they have to look
after themselves. While the reality is fractured and paradoxical, and
compromised by alcohol and other drug use, the gang is an important
element in maintaining community integrity.