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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Faith and community: Recovering gang members in Los Angeles
by Flores, Edward, Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2010, 191; 3418254
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines how urban, faith-based organizations facilitate Latino men’s recovery from gang life. Drawing upon in-depth interviews and participant observation at two sites, Homeboy Industries, a non-denominational non-profit organization, and Victory Outreach, a Pentecostal church, the findings suggest that recovery involves a Chicano patriarchal bargain, transforming Chicano gang masculinity to reformed barrio masculinity. Recovering gang members come to see gang life as addictive and destructive; they abstain from drugs and violence, seek employment, and build nurturing relationships with women and children. Recovery organizations provide recovering gang members with opportunities to negotiate and perform masculinity in social interactions through “the podium,” spaces for speaking such as group therapy, worship and testimonies. In addition, recovery is facilitated through bodily practices that redirect and reshape masculine gang embodiment; superficial facets of gang embodiment, such as tattoos, dress style or hairstyle can be reshaped through soft embodiment, although rigid facets, such as mannerisms, walk, or cravings for drugs or violence are hard embodiment, and remain difficult to reform. Talk and bodily practices are structured by the theological underpinnings and religious practices of each organization. Victory Outreach proposes a gang recovery model of segregated redemption, seeking to shelter recovering gang members from the broader local community through ascetic religious practices, proselytism, worship and evangelism. Homeboy Industries proposes a gang recovery model of integrative redemption, seeking to integrate recovering gang members into the broader local community through eclectic spirituality and clinical rehabilitation.

Two theoretical interventions are offered. First, this dissertation suggests to segmented assimilation theory that “downwardly assimilated” adult, second generation immigrants can experience integration through cultural memory situated in urban American life. Chicano gang members exit gang life by acculturating into cohesive social groups, and fostering cultural memory that resonates with the Chicano gang experience. A second theoretical intervention is offered to gender literature concerned with the “patriarchal bargain.” This study suggests that men do not require pre-existing patriarchal privilege in dominant institutions, such as the domestic sphere, labor market or public sphere, in order to negotiate a patriarchal bargain. Rather, men can be largely marginalized from any or all of these spheres, but may learn, through the site of recovery, how to integrate into these institutions and express reformed barrio masculinity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette
Commitee: Emeka, Amon, Miller, Donald E.
School: University of Southern California
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 71/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Criminology, Public policy, Hispanic American studies
Keywords: Acculturation, California, Chicano, Chicano studies, Faith-based organizations, Gangs, Los Angeles, Men and masculinities, Religion, Second generation
Publication Number: 3418254
ISBN: 978-1-124-16393-2
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