War on Gangs: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Gang Issue in El Salvador

Studenteropgave: Kandidatspeciale og HD afgangsprojekt

  • Sandra Bødker Bejarano
4. semester, Udviklingsstudier, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
Thisstudyseekstounderstandhowgangsandgangmembersarerepresentedinthehegemonic discourse in El Salvador, how the discourse has become how it is and the possible consequences of the representation of gang-members. Scholars, international institutions and governments have gradually showed more interest in how especially the media and political actors in Central America, and in particular in El Salvador, have identified the gangs as public enemy number one. The growing gang issue in El Salvador is not new nor are the causes of their existence unknown. What has now become familiar as La Mara Phenomenon (Salvadoran for Gang) is highly researched and the hottest topic of discussion both nationally, regionally and internationally when it comes to the subject of crime issues in Central America. By using the Critical Discourse Analysis by Fairclough, this study analyses the speech of the President of El Salvador, Sanchez Cerén, together with news features from the three biggest online news platforms in El Salvador; El Faro, El Blog, and La Página, in order to identify the hegemonic discourseongangmembers,understanditscircumstancesofproduction,andfinallytoexplain, on thebasis of atheoretical framework, the effectof thediscourse in relation tothe gangissue. The theoretical framework for the analysis included the theories on normalisation of violence, representation of social media, and the impact of organised crime on state social control by, respectively, Hume; Huhn, Oettler and Wolf; and Lambrechts. This study identifies that the gangs are represented through an extremely negative stereotype, which depicts the gang members as violent, criminal, murderers, irrational, inhumane, cruel and the single biggest threat to the public security and prosperity of El Salvador. The gang members are represented as one, homogenous group, why all the aforementioned characteristics are attributed to all the gang members. In addition, the discourse represents the gang members as the ‘evil other’, and consequently a narrative of an “us” (the government) versus “them” (the gangs) is created. The analysis furthermore shows that there are four main causes to the above representation of the gang members; 1) The Civil War, which created a hostile environment where violence became the norm of conflict resolution. 2) The failure to address socio-economic issues properly. 3) A culture of violence which is deeply embedded in the Salvadoran society. And finally, 4) The hegemonicdiscourseinthemediaexaggeratesandover-generalisestheviolenceinElSalvador andfurthermoreportraysthegangissueasaconsequenceofindividualpathologicaltendencies.

In conclusion, this concludes that the representation of the gang members generates the spread of fear and consequently an inclination towards more punitive policies and strategies, which, in turn, enables further exclusion and marginalisation. Furthermore, it legitimises the use of violence against the gang members as a resolution to the violence committed by the gangs, thus, generating a self-reinforcing cycle of violence, where more and more extreme measures are perceived as necessary to win the battle between the gangs and the government. Hence, the hegemonic discourse represents that power battle, and is therefore used as a tool by the government and the media to win.
SpecialiseringsretningLatin American Studies
Udgivelsesdato31 maj 2017
Antal sider79
ID: 258726110