Liberian Gangs: The Impact of American Gang and Popular Culture

Liberian Gangs: The Impact of American Gang and Popular Culture

Kamil Williams (Georgia State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2856-3.ch004
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While research in the United States still grapples to understand the formation and persistence of gangs, American gangs' impact and influence on other populations across the globe are astonishing. One of these places of influence, Africa, has a long collective history of social, political, and economic turmoil, creating a space for social inequalities that some would consider the foundational grounds for criminal deviance and social chaos. When providing a comparative criminological lens, gangs tend to emerge from historical trauma, rooted in poverty and fueled in growth by national and international media and cultural influences.
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American criminologists and sociologists alike have spent decades explaining the impact that gangs have had within the country. Some of the main theories provide a pivotal window into the lives of those from impoverished and socially unequal neighborhoods in which gang culture has thrived. The notion of understanding why and how these groups formed birthed theories that explained the conflict, strain, disorganization, cultural differences, learning, and control in which society had placed these groups. A well-known sociologist with Marxist perspectives has utilized Karl Marx’s understanding of social settings, economics, and structure and applied those thoughts to the field of criminology. Marxist theories explained gangs as an overall collective group whose fundamental formation was based on their societal connections of class and social status, which are then exploited by those with higher societal powers (Colvin & Pauly, 1983; Lynch & Boggess, 2016; Pearson & Weiner, 1985). The theory can be easily understood as the conflict between individuals in poverty and the fulfillment of basic needs versus those in control of how and if those needs are met. While Marxist ideas explained gangs and the poverty they experience on a macro level, it was not inclusive in accounting for inequalities that many Black Americans experience within communities with higher rates of gang activities (Lynch & Boggess, 2016). Another theory that emerged is credited to sociologist Robert Merton. Merton focused on the strain of social factors (i.e., a lack of income and education) that forced individuals to commit crimes. However, this theory over-represented people of color (POC) in urban spaces as gang-involved and was mainly used to describe deviant activities amongst disadvantaged groups; again, denying to consider the differences between groups within the larger group of disadvantaged individuals (Akers, 2017). The Chicago School, an organization with the first recognizable research data on gangs, focused on data that emphasized crime rate patterns, theorizing that ecological structures or neighborhood location caused disorganization of the community and were the contributing factor of gang formation (Eck et al., 1995; Papachristos et al., 2013).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Criminal Gangs: A group of people who actively participate in illegal or illegitimate means that may include a value on eliminating the oppression of that group.

Gangs: A group of people who may or may not partake in criminal-based activities or behaviors grounded in specific gang culture.

Gang Culture: Norms, values, beliefs, customs associated with a group of people, passed down from generation to generation, placing a specific value on eliminating oppression onto that group through the uses of social, legal, and political means deemed illegal or illegitimate.

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