Bred and Meet: Gangs and God in East London

Armstrong, Gary and Rosbrook-Thompson, James (2016) Bred and Meet: Gangs and God in East London. In: Illegal Entrepreneurship, Organized Crime and Social Control: Essays in Honor of Professor Dick Hobbs. Studies of Organized Crime, 14 . Springer, Cham, pp. 265-289. ISBN 978-3-319-31606-2

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Religion has a time-honoured role in consummating the status of both the newcomer and the departed, and providing succour to those facing persecution. In networks wherein notions of respect and honesty are stressed but are best defined by notions of fate, violence and death, it is perhaps unsurprising that appeals of various kinds are often directed to a higher power. In what follows analysis focuses on the role of religion in Serious Youth Violence (SYV)/gang interventions in contemporary East London. Specifically, we examine the work of Pentecostal Christian charity, Teaching Against Gangs (TAG), and the ways in which its founder, Sheldon Thomas, draws on the repertoires of Christianity in imploring young people (primarily young men aged between 13 and 25) to turn their backs on the Road/gang life. Those ‘On the Road’ operate within an underground economy pervaded by notions of ‘respect’, ‘trespass’ and ‘business’ enforceable by both threatened and actual violence. The ‘Road Man’ can vary in age from mid-teens to mid-20s. The Elders are assumed to be involved in more consequential and lucrative criminal enterprises than the Youngers. The former are also presumed capable of more grievous forms of violence. Jail time and serious wounding typify life On the Road. As a consequence some people have made it their life’s work to offer an alternative way of living. Here we begin by briefly surveying the extant literature on religion and organised crime, before considering the methods employed in the research and the settings in which TAG interventions were staged. The strategies and realities of the interventions themselves are then detailed. The chapter ends with a consideration of the utility of religious values and rituals in the work of TAG and its attempts to prevent SYV/gang violence.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Keywords: gangs, serious youth violence, intervention, religion, ethnography
Faculty: ARCHIVED Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences (until September 2018)
Depositing User: James Rosbrook-Thompson
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2016 12:28
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2022 09:40

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