Contemporary Gang Ethnographies

Scott H. Decker and David C. Pyrooz

in The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199747238
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Contemporary Gang Ethnographies

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  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Theories of Crime
  • Violent Crime



Until the middle of the twentieth century, research on gangs was ethnographic in nature, with a strong journalistic approach. However, there has been a shift in the ethnographic study of gangs from serious fieldwork in America to the European setting. This article focuses on the state of contemporary gang ethnography by analyzing three periods of ethnographic research on gangs: the classic era, the “interstitial” period, and the contemporary period. It traces the evolution of the ethnographic approach to the study of youth behavior in the United States over the past century. It also looks at the interstitial period to provide a contrast to the state of gang ethnography in Europe.

Keywords: gangs; ethnography; criminology; United States; Europe; youth behavior; interstitial period; contemporary period; classic era

Article.  9277 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Theories of Crime ; Violent Crime

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