“Come on Now, I Want to See Blood!”: Choreographed Violence in Gang Initiation Rites

“Come on Now, I Want to See Blood!”: Choreographed Violence in Gang Initiation Rites

Laura L. Hansen (Western New England University, USA) and Melissa E. Freitag (Bowling Green State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9938-0.ch001
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Abstract

Violent initiation rites directed at new members or potential members of an organization are not recent phenomena and not exclusive to joining street gangs or crews. This chapter will explore the origins of violent initiation through history and how contemporary rites used to “welcome” new members in youth gangs mirror other entries into exclusively male enclaves. These rituals include controlled, choreographed patterns of violent behavior, including participants vs. voyeurs and number of blows directed at the initiate before the rite is considered to be completed. In additional to taking a historical perspective, recognized predictive risk factors for gang recruitment are listed, including those identified by Hill et al. (1999) in their Seattle study of juvenile delinquency and how it leads down the slippery slope to gang affiliation.
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Micro/Macro Processes

One can point to a number of risk factors for why juveniles are attracted to gang life, many of which are listed within the pages of this book, including this chapter. In the extreme, children are subjected to pressures on the local and global level that make it near impossible to imagine a “normal” life or realization of the “American Dream” of gainful employment, “normal” family life (spouse, children), home ownership. There is no one smoking gun variable to explain away gang membership, but rather the additive effect of a number of social ills that contribute to the compulsion to join.

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