Turning Shame into Violence

Robert Brenneman

in Homies and Hermanos

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199753840
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918836 | DOI:
Turning Shame into Violence

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Why are Central American youth attracted to gangs and why does violence play such an important role in gang life? This chapter argues that chronic shame resulting from the experience of relative deprivation (poverty), abusive or absentee parents, and school problems makes some Central American youth prime candidates for joining the gang. The gang offers a temporary escape from chronic shame because it offers gang members the possibility of accessing pride through rituals of solidarity, the excitement of engaging in crime, and access to money, drugs, and sex. In the second half of the chapter the author examines the social structural sources of chronic shame—including poverty, unemployment, and the feminization of migration—and develops a model for understanding why some barrio youth join the gang and others do not.

Keywords: shame; Central America; violence; gangs; youth violence; crime; sex; drugs

Chapter.  20719 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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