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'Move on or you're gettin' jailed': Anti-social behaviour, gangs and the social exclusion of youth

Deuchar, Ross (2009) 'Move on or you're gettin' jailed': Anti-social behaviour, gangs and the social exclusion of youth. In: ECER - The European Conference on Educational Research 2009, 2009-09-28 - 2009-09-30.

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Abstract

The exclusion of young people from their urban neighbourhoods is on the increase globally, and the recent claims about young people's disengagement and declining behaviour have been consistently linked to wider claims about the depletion of social capital within communities (MacDonald, 1997; Kelly, 2000; Deuchar, 2009). The criminalisation of city spaces and zero tolerance policies which are now common across the world provide ample evidence of the common view that young people are to be regarded either as vulnerable or threatening (Robinson, 2000; Barker, 2005; Sharland, 2006). In many parts of the world, it has become something of a national sport to demonise young men in particular, and especially those from low-income backgrounds (Barker, 2005). The introduction of the more 'muscular' territorial authority of the police in many parts of Europe and the USA has resulted in increasing numbers of anti-social behaviour orders, wider exclusionary practices and an extraordinary level of intervention and surveillance in urban communities (Robinson, 2000; McDowell, 2001; Barker, 2005). It has also been claimed that gang membership in urban communities is on the increase globally and that young gang members are likely to progress to more serious violence and organised crime (Clare, 2000; Thompson, 2004). And yet, it could be argued that young people gain a sense of social identity from hanging out on the streets in groups, which may be lacking in their experiences of family and community (Winton, 2005). This paper explores young people's interpretations of their local urban neighbourhoods. It examines the impact of territoriality and surveillance on their lives and reflects upon the relationship between gang culture and the building of social capital. It also considers the potential for new social and educational initiatives to re-engage young people who are disaffected, vulnerable and prone to social exclusion.