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Title: The role and significance of street capital in the social field of the violent youth gang in Lambeth
Author: Harding, Simon K.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 9105
Awarding Body: University of Bedfordshire
Current Institution: University of Bedfordshire
Date of Award: 2012
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Much recent UK gang research has failed to adequately answer: do gangs exist and if so, are they organised? internal gang dynamics, criminal behaviours and motivations for joining remain largely unexplored; as does the upsurge in violent crime in gang-affected areas of south London. This research set out to answer these questions by investigating gangs in Lambeth, their activities and the daily experiences of those affiliated to them. The study begins by profiling the case study area, currently prevalent street gangs and links to violent crime. The investigation then examines in detail inter-gang and intragang dynamics and community relationships. A further objective is to establish whether, and if so to what extent, gangs were expanding and becoming more deeply embedded in the neighbourhood. This work situates contemporary UK gang research within the literary arc of classic and contemporary US gang research, from Chicago School to Hagedorn. Current UK studies are categorised into three distinct arguments, then critiqued from a Left Realist perspective. Addressing the question, how do we explain an increase in gang related violence?, the work establishes the gang as a social arena (field) of competition where actors struggle for distinction. But what are the characteristics and boundaries of this social -Field? What motivates young people to enter it, and how do you succeed within it? How significant are personal relationships and networks? What is the role of social capital and how do you become a competent actor in this field? These issues are explored using the theoretical perspectives of social field analysis and habitus from Bourdieu alongside various elements of social capital theory. An inductive ethnometholdogy was adopted. The paper presents findings from 30 qualitative interviews of residents, professionals and gang -affiliated young people in Lambeth. The ethical challenges of gang research, such as access and anonymity are addressed. The findings support the proposition that gangs in south London exist, are active and internally organised into three structural tiers. Success within the field is determined by building and maintaining Street Capital -a tradable asset. To acquire this, members strategise by employing tested techniques from the Gang Repertoire, derived from the habitus. Youngers and Olders employ different Repertoires. All actors within the social field are subject to sanctions with new arrivals at increased risk. The field is highly gendered and girls are central to the gang strategising using information and the gang Network. Importantly the findings support the argument that gangs in Lambeth are evolving and becoming more embedded. Increased gang related violence is an outcome of new dynamics in social field, including the imperative to acquire Street Capital and the role of new technology. Increased tensions and violence have cumulative stressful impacts for young people. To address this, they increasingly risk manage their lives through self exclusion or a fatalistic immersion in the social field.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: L610 Social and Cultural Anthropology ; gangs ; Lambeth ; London ; violence in society ; violent crime ; street capital