1st Edition

Critical and Intersectional Gang Studies

Edited By Jennifer M. Ortiz Copyright 2023
    184 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    184 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book offers a critical and empirical examination of gang life, using an intersectional framework considering race, class, gender, and other characteristics. The book reexamines mainstream definitions of gangs, identifies myths and misconceptions, and presents the complex subcultural or countercultural realities of gang members and their associates. Special attention is given to the importance of structural violence experienced by gang members and their communities. This book also interrogates how mainstream gang research is complicit in the oppression of marginalized individuals who join gangs.

    Assembling contributions from leading experts involved in gang research and the investigation of street gang culture, this book provides a perspective often missing in the conversation around gangs. Direct input from current and former gang members provides a window into the lived experiences of gang life—a picture more accurate and useful than that afforded by the privileged lens often used in gang research. Reliance on an intersectional approach fosters a non-pathological and critical look at gangs and their members.

    Critical and Intersectional Gang Studies is intended for students and scholars involved in the study of gangs, delinquency, and subcultural theory and will serve as a reference for researchers who wish to utilize a progressive, critical, and intersectional approach to study the impacts of gangs.

    Chapter 1: Introduction

    Section 1: Gang Definition

    Chapter 2: "Gang Ain’t In My Dictionary": Utilizing Insider Perspectives to Develop a Critical Gang Definition

    Jennifer M. Ortiz

    Chapter 3: Demystifying Alt-Right Gangs: Are White Power Groups Cut from the Same Cloth as Conventional Gangs?

    Matthew Valasik & Shannon Reid

    Chapter 4: [Folk]tales of different peoples¹: Transgressing gang definitions and historical ties

    Brian Cabral & Sarah Bruno

    Section 2: Critical Reflections on Gang Studies

    Chapter 5: Towards a Decolonial Imaginary to Reexamine and Redefine Mainstream Definitions of ‘Gangs’ and ‘Gang Members’ in America

    Amy Andrea Martinez

    Chapter 6: MS-13, Gang Studies, and Crimes of the Powerful

    Kenneth Sebastian Leon & Maya Barack

    Chapter 7: Evolution of the Folk Devil: Deconstructing Claims about Hybrid Gangs

    Christian Bolden & Renee Lamphere

    Section 3: Intersectional Gang Studies

    Chapter 8: Gang as a Proxy for Race: How the Criminal Justice System uses ‘gang’ to reinforce oppression in minority communities

    Jennifer M. Ortiz

    Chapter 9: "I wanted to be the first Mexican Mafia female member:" An Intersectional Criminological Analysis of Chicana Gang Members in California

    Marisa D. Salinas & Xuan Santos

    Chapter 10: LGBTQ Gang Members’ Intersectional Identities and Experiences

    Vanessa Panfil


    Jennifer M. Ortiz is an associate professor at The College of New Jersey. Dr. Ortiz earned her PhD in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her research interests center on structural violence within the criminal justice system, with a focus on prison gangs and reentry post-incarceration. Ortiz’s most recent scholarship has been published in The Prison Journal, Corrections: Policy, Practice, and Research and Criminal Justice Review. Ortiz currently serves as an executive board member for Mission Behind Bars and Beyond, a Kentucky-based non-profit reentry organization and as Division Chair for the Division of Convict Criminology of the American Society of Criminology.