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Popular Cultural Representations: the Self- Defining Narratives of Violent Young Male Offenders - What do Harrowing Life Histories Tell Us? Professor Chris.

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Presentation on theme: "Popular Cultural Representations: the Self- Defining Narratives of Violent Young Male Offenders - What do Harrowing Life Histories Tell Us? Professor Chris."— Presentation transcript:

1 Popular Cultural Representations: the Self- Defining Narratives of Violent Young Male Offenders - What do Harrowing Life Histories Tell Us? Professor Chris Holligan University of the West of Scotland


3 Culture – Focus on Lived Experience 3 Anthropological way of life A common resource of meaning ‘structure of feeling’ is the experience of living culture, a register of everyday life learnt from others ‘Gangs’ and ‘schemes’ designate the ‘other’ – the stranger we don’t know Williams is not talking about aesthetic surface of our ‘cultural treasures’ – he is talking about ways of being, values, ways of living and judging

4 Community & Family 4 I ask what does the term ‘community’ mean to these lads? What does it hold in terms of culture & structure of feeling? (members are trained to see X through a cultural lens) Does the structure of feeling (palpable in their community help ‘produce’ their offending? The sample express memories around: Place Persons Violence Drugs Fear Aimlessness

5 Analytical implications 5 If we accept culture as ordinary and a structure of feeling then the prisoners embody their culture of community The prisoner’s narratives are not personal to them therefore – they are windows onto places In this presentation therefore I advance the conjecture the voices of these young lads can and ought to be analysed as impersonal life trajectories over which their agency is inherently tenuous Re-offending represents the immense determining power of the structure of feeling immanent in their lives I’m logically committed to the prediction that by not returning to their indigenous community they reduce their likelihood of re- offending These lads don’t ‘own’ the violence they use. Instead the actor- network nexus ‘exploits’ them and in the process this culture actively reproduces itself over the generations, through families They are, as clique has it, victims of circumstance (culture)

6 Exploring the Narrative evidence-base Culture As Ordinary 6 “…play football, just hanging about wi my pals and that – in here a day the same kind of things, football, snooker…snooker is good as it gets your concentration all in one place, so your minds no all over the place, concentrating on the one thing constantly – hitting the right shot, putting a spin on the ball and all that. Playing football was a good thing in my life. Every week I went training. Outside I go once or twice a week to a club in Clydebank, get a couple of beers and that with my pals then back up the road. You only need to put down a tenner in case you brake the cues – you get yer money back. Played snooker for 6-7 years. …My dad was a good snooker player. He ended up getting a snooker table in the house, but I didn’t like it. It’s a different kind of table. I thought if my dad’s good at it I might be good at it, you know what I mean?”

7 Culture of Schooling Respecting ‘the script’ 7 “Went to school right up to primary. In first year of secondary got kicked out for 7 weeks for fighting cause I went to school with the other scheme that I fought with. Always had a big knife or chopper in my school bag or down ma duke every time I went to school. Hit another boy with a chopper and ended up getting a couple of years in secure. That’s the way it is. I had to attack them before they attacked me so I chopped him in the head, but if I hadn’t it would be me that got chopped. That’s the script in X. If you see a boy running down the street towards you with a knife you need to whip out a bigger knife so that he starts running away. It’s no to make a name for yourself, but you need to put the foot down and make sure they know they are not going to chase you with a knife you tell them. Let them know the script obviously. I stopped that a year ago when I got a bird and wee house. Moved out ma dad’s house. But we had a party in the garden and a saw a few boys and went back to my old ways. I took a walk to cool myself down, but I wasn’t cooling down. There were 3-4 boys and I started smacking everyone of them. It’s what the drugs can do to you”.

8 Travelling Incognito 8 “I grew up in a gang. A lot of my past comes from that. All my pals are in here from that. It’s called the Valley. A wee scheme at the side of X. We used to fight with every scheme outside of X. So I couldn’t go out my scheme except in a car. I had to get my granddad to take us anywhere. Sometimes I’d wear a balaclava so I could walk down with my granddad. I was fighting with them, not because I wanted to, but you had to. You got ambushed – next thing you’d done a pee and they’d, 20 0f them, racing at you with choppers. My pal got ambushed: he went and done a piss and they started hitting him with machetes. I was sitting holding him bleeding to death til the ambulance came.”

9 War and Respect 9 “Just to let people know we’re no all bams. Respect, no reputation just that we’re not going to sit there and take their shit – like if you are going to come to our scheme you’re going to be chopped up, caught and put in a bag. We weren’t going to be shown as dafties. Folk thought we were just a wee scheme on the side, but were starting to get a bit of a reputation for ourselves. We started getting a heavy team of people so we obviously started to chase every scheme about that came down to our scheme. We had to tell them obviously to get to fuck man. You’d be sitting in the window of a house and you’d see somebody from the other scheme man and you’d run out and you’d grab the biggest knife in yer kitchen drawer to chase him, no because you had to do it but to prove to him you cannot walk through my scheme as we cannot walk through yours. It’s X we’re talking about here, tough shit if it’s a public highway – you can come up from another scheme and your getting chopped up man. We don’t go chopping civilians you know what I mean. They only way we do that if they are trying to draw dirty looks and that and tell them they’d better get out before you get chopped up in a bad way man. It’s pure bad how I’m describing it, but that’s Glasgow life man. All ma troops stay in the Valley – all my pals in the barracks. I went to school with them all. Started to hang about with them all that stay in the Valley”.

10 Family ‘Tradition’ 10 “…not lived with family since age 11. Got a mum. I absolutely hate them! Cannot stand them. Have been in homes and with uncles and grans home. That’s the story of my family. I don’t like speaking to them. We argue over everything! Differences of opinion…Even my little sisters had a go at me. I remember getting whacked over the head. She’s got some balls on her. This was when I was 11 and she was only 9! We ended up starting to argue. She whacked me over the head with a steel frame 3 times. She’s got a temper! Most of my brothers are still in jail. The only one in the family that’s not in is my sister. She’s just too young. She’ll get a slap over the knuckles – the Children’s Panel. My mum, dad, uncles, cousins – all have been in jail. I think only two have not. Everyone was just locked in at home, everyday my mum and dad would lock the doors. We weren’t allowed out to see our pals. Ive been put in hospital at age 7 due to older brothers. We absolutely hated each other. I still don’t understand why they locked us in. They were just violent. My mum’s been in jail 3 times, twice for robbery and once attempted murder. One brother is inside now for GBH. Cut someone up. It had been attempted murder. I get on with my cousin only because he’s a nutter – an absolute nutter. He just walks down the street and suddenly he’ll hit someone walking past him. It’s the way my family have been brought up, all this violence. When I was with my family there was no life at all.

11 A School ‘Education’ 11 “…At primary 7 I stated to change and when I went to high school everything changed. My whole life turned upside down because of the whole influences of people from other areas – the whole influence was skipping school. It was a good time because I met a lot of people from a lot of areas, but I was from the X. I was in that gang and you get labelled. We were told by the school we were the worst year they’d ever had. All the boys from different areas joined together and we caused havoc in the school. There was quite a lot of fighting boys from other areas. They got at my girlfriend saying ‘Get your hard boyfriend to do it’. And they started building me a reputation for fighting. I sat all my exams, but because there was a lot of boys I couldn’t concentrate in classes. In third year I wasn’t caring about stuff. When I was going into classes I was going in stoned. Just running about laughing at teachers. If the X hadn’t had the reputation it did it would have been a lot quieter at school…”

12 The Power of Drugs 12 “…outside I’m not going to be with the friends I made here after. Get in too much trouble. Trying to show off and stuff. It’s pointless. It’s shit really because I’ve ended up in here. I cannot blame my friends as I could have said no to it. It’s me who made the decision to go ahead with it. Valium and drink. Drugs and stuff. You could do anything when on it. Stab any cunt. Do anything. You wake up in the morning and you say ‘what did I do last night? You could have killed someone. You don’t know. You’ll take on anybody when you are on it. If you take a large amount of valium you don’t know what you could do. It changes your whole personality. You go from a nice person to an evil person”.

13 Final thoughts on the Lives of ‘Young Criminals’ 13 They obey dominant male cultural narratives - (see symbolic interactionalism) Family ‘traditions’ transmit through the male line, brothers and fathers, uncles & cousins Criminal trajectories modelled on others – they can build types of cultural capital outside pathways to positive futures (“Paul Ferris changed my nappies…”) Patterns of socialisation are a preparation for the masculine culture of the prison which the prison itself reproduces on the inside – labelling creates identity, constrains futures

14 A Relevant Theorisation of Data 14 Structural anomie – Impacts on crime (general) “structural anomie is expected to be especially prominent in situations where an egalitarian ideology does not differentiate between various strata, yet those within these strata are structurally provided with differential access to success (Passas,1997).” Cited in Cockran et al, 2012 Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol, 56.

15 Cockran et al (cont) 15 “structural organization of society blocks the access of some of its members to the legitimate means to attain this goal (i.e., relative deprivation/economic inequality/blocked opportunities, represented here by the Gini coefficient—readers should note the close conceptual connection that economic inequality has to radical theory as well as anomie theory)” P.206. Structural anomie seen as an emergent social property arising out of the interactions of factors (want amid plenty)

16 Anomie is associated with: 16 Weak noneconomic social institutions: FAMILY – as we saw THE POLITY – low voter turnout as we know EDUCATION SYSTEM – high exclusion rates ““want amid plenty” may be the criminogenic force that drives anomic societies toward high rates of instrumental (e.g.theft) crime…” p.211. …high rates of instrumental crimes may be most prevalent in those nation-states with an economy strong enough to satisfy the cultural expectations for a substantial portion of the population, but not all. High levels of economic inequality within these countries may inspire those whose legitimate opportunities for economic success have been blocked to “innovate” illegitimate means of economic accrual...”

17 Homicide & Anomie 17 For homicide, the highest cross-national rates are observed among countries characterized by a strong cultural emphasis on economic success (high scores on the economic freedom index) but with an economy too weak to sustain these desires (low GDP). Within such arrangements, high economic inequality may ignite social-psychological processes of deprivation–frustration–aggression. Rather than “want amid plenty,” under this form of anomie, it is dashed hopes that foster high rates of expressive/violent crime, that is, the combination of high aspirations coupled with low expectations for success. P. 211.

18 Anomie – Violence/Aggression 18 evident in those nation-states in which cultural forces also elevate aspirations for economic success, but the economy is not strong enough to sustain such aspirations. Within these societies, a weak economy circumscribes expectations for success and, especially for those at the bottom of the social structure, replaces them with frustration (Blau & Blau, 1982). From this widespread frustration come high levels of expressive or violent crime. These findings are also consistent with Agnew’s (1999) macro-level conceptualization of strain/anomie in which he proposes that goal blockage creates frustration, which, in turn, can lead to high rates of aggression. (p.213)

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