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Estudios Socio-Jurídicos

Print version ISSN 0124-0579


BAIRD, Adam. Becoming the Baddest: Masculine Trajectories of Gang Violence in Medellín. Estud. Socio-Juríd [online]. 2018, vol.20, n.2, pp.9-48. ISSN 0124-0579.

Drawing upon forty life-history interviews with gang members in Medellín, Colombia, this paper argues that many young men join gangs to emulate and reproduce 'successful' local male identities. The accumulation by the gang of "masculine capital", the material and symbolic signifiers of manhood, and accompanying stylistic and timely displays, means that youths often perceive them to be spaces of male success, driving the social reproduction of the gang. Once in the gang, they become increasingly "bad" using of violence to defend the gang's interests in exchange for masculine capital. Gang leaders, colloquially known as duros or "hard men", tend to be the más malo, the "baddest". The "ganging process" should not be understood in terms of aberrant youth behaviour, rather there is practical logic to joining the gang as a site of identity formation for aspirational young men who are coming-of-age when conditions of structural exclusion conspire against them.

Keywords : gangs; urban violence; youth violence; masculinities; masculine capital; Medellín; Bourdieu.

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