• Casper Sten Larsen
  • Pernille Petrea Præstegaard
  • Stine Skovsøe Birk Petersen
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
In this thesis, we examine how former gang members with an ethnic minority background construct identities in their narratives concerning the times before, under and after their involvement in a gang. Since we focus on their constructions of identity, we find it interesting to examine how they position themselves in their narratives and which causal relations they identify. The empirical data consists of four narrative interviews with former gang members.

We have conducted our research within the Constructivist Interactionist theory of science. This influences our processing and analysis of the empirical data.

In the gathering of empirical data, and the processing of this, we have worked with an abductive research strategy. This has given us the opportunity to work with reciprocity within the empirical data and the theories. A Symbolic Interactionist narrative method has made it possible for us to investigate the informants constructions of meaning and identity in their narratives.

All of our theories are inspired by the theoretical tradition, Symbolic Interactionism. Our theoretical approach consists of Labeling Theory represented by Howard Becker and Erving Goffman. Firstly Becker’s theory on deviant careers helps us to examine how the former gang members gradually becomes more and more involved in criminal activities. Goffman’s theory on stigma helps us to further investigate how the former gang members perceives how the surroundings view them. Furthermore Peter J. Burke and Jan E. Stets´ Identity Theory have helped us understand how identities are constructed and which factors have an influence in changing them. We also consider Gresham M. Sykes and David Matza’s techniques of neutralization in the analysis because these can help us understand how the informants position themselves in their narratives and how and which causal explanations they use in doing this.

Our main findings are that perceived racism and a feeling of stigmatization play a large role in the informant’s narratives. Especially in that part of the narratives concerning how and why they got involved in gangs, and then again when they describe their life situations after they have left the gangs. The significant others in the form of biological family and the dreams of one day starting their own family plays a significant role in their motivations for leaving the gang. Another common feature are the positions the informants put themselves in during their narratives:
In the first part they position themselves as a victim. The search for somewhere to belong played the main role in this part of their narratives, and they explained how they found this in the gangs and in unity with other delinquents with minority backgrounds.
In the second part of their narratives they positioned themselves as non-violent gang members who where smarter than many others in the gang environment. Their explanations of their time in the gang were almost a description of a refuge from the surrounding society. They described how they found a family and brotherhood of equals in the gang. Even those of the informants, who did not have a description of a close involvement with a specific gang, still expressed a tale of feeling safe in this period of their life.
In the last part of their narratives is drawn a clear picture of the informants in the position as the hero when describing their movement away from the gang. They made a great deal out of explaining how they were the main reason in making this exit from the gang possible. After they had left the gang the perceptions of racism and stigmatization were introduced to us once again.
Publication date14 Nov 2016
ID: 243708233