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A World of Gangs

Armed Young Men and Gangsta Culture

2009
Author:

John M. Hagedorn
Foreword by Mike Davis

A World of Gangs

From L.A. to Lagos, Port-au-Prince to Paris—a provocative analysis of the global proliferation of street gangs

John Hagedorn explores the international proliferation of the urban gang as a consequence of the ravages of globalization. Looking closely at gang formation in Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, and Capetown he discovers that gangs have institutionalized as a strategy to confront a hopeless cycle of poverty, racism, and oppression and provides vital insights into the ideology and persistence of gangs around the world.

A World of Gangs is an illuminating journey around the cultures, lives, tragedies, and dreams of millions of rebellious youth around the planet. It brings together the rigorous tools of social research with an extraordinary sensitivity for the human experience and an unusual analytical capacity to make sense of it all. It is an indispensable work to understand the world we live in and essential reading for students of cities and communities.

Manuel Castells, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and City Planning,
University of California, Berkeley

For the more than a billion people who now live in urban slums, gangs are ubiquitous features of daily life. Though still most closely associated with American cities, gangs are an entrenched, worldwide phenomenon that play a significant role in a wide range of activities, from drug dealing to extortion to religious and political violence. In A World of Gangs, John Hagedorn explores this international proliferation of the urban gang as a consequence of the ravages of globalization.

Looking closely at gang formation in three world cities—Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, and Capetown—he discovers that some gangs have institutionalized as a strategy to confront a hopeless cycle of poverty, racism, and oppression. In particular, Hagedorn reveals, the nihilistic appeal of gangsta rap and its street ethic of survival “by any means necessary” provides vital insights into the ideology and persistence of gangs around the world.

This groundbreaking work concludes on a hopeful note. Proposing ways in which gangs might be encouraged to overcome their violent tendencies, Hagedorn appeals to community leaders to use the urgency, outrage, and resistance common to both gang life and hip-hop in order to bring gangs into broader movements for social justice.

A World of Gangs

John M. Hagedorn is associate professor of criminal justice and senior research fellow at Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is editor of Gangs in the Global City; co-editor of Female Gangs in America: Essays on Girls, Gangs, and Gender; and author of the highly influential People and Folks: Gangs, Crime, and the Underclass in a Rustbelt City.

MacArthur fellow Mike Davis is professor of history at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of many books, including Planet of Slums, City of Quartz, and Ecology of Fear.

A World of Gangs

A World of Gangs is an illuminating journey around the cultures, lives, tragedies, and dreams of millions of rebellious youth around the planet. It brings together the rigorous tools of social research with an extraordinary sensitivity for the human experience and an unusual analytical capacity to make sense of it all. It is an indispensable work to understand the world we live in and essential reading for students of cities and communities.

Manuel Castells, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and City Planning,
University of California, Berkeley

Hagedorn is an undeniable authority on the topic. A well-organized, well-researched and sensitive study.

Publishers Weekly

A World of Gangs is an eye-opening account on a major international phenomena which will give one a new conception of gangs. Not only do the author’s accounts of gangs from around the world, the conditions out of which they emerge, and their activities conduce to a new perspective, but he also puts forth new principles for an intellectual comprehension of gangs.

Midwest Book Review

Hagedorn is to be commended for his policy implications and his candid hope in what he recognizes is an uphill battle. His novel suggestions direct researchers and community members to a potentially rich resource for political action.

Canadian Journal of Sociology

A World of Gangs is a dizzying journey around the globe in order to understand the contours of the contemporary gang situation. Hagedorn graciously escorts the reader through Chicago’s housing projects, Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, Cape Town’s townships, and Mumbai’s slums. Hagedorn once again moves gang research and urban scholarship in a much-needed direction. This book takes a long overdue look at how macro socio-economic forces shape the highly localized life of gangs and gang members. Hagedorn boldly calls for the infusion of race, politics, and culture into the study of gangs—subjects that have been overlooked for far too long.

Urban Affairs Review

Hagedorn presents a searing study of the cultural phenomenon of gangs. His exploration demonstrates how globally entrenched gangs are, and how these bands of destructive youth cross country boundaries to threaten even international peace. From inner-city gangs to murderous political insurgents to international terrorists operating in cells, Hagedorn’s work characterizes gang life, culture, and its many violent illegal enterprises as a worldwide crisis that feeds off society’s counterproductive, predatory values of racism, sexism, and classism.

Choice

Hagedorn’s A World of Gangs will make a lasting impression on all who work with diverse youth populations.

Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry