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Gangsters Without Borders An Ethnography of a Salvadoran Street Gang



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Oxford University Press
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Based on author T.W. Ward's eight and a half years in Los Angeles conducting participant observation with MS-13,Gangsters Without Borders: An Ethnography of a Salvadoran Street Gangtakes an inside look at gang life in the United States and in a global context. Taking us through their journey from their homeland in El Salvador to the mean streets of Los Angeles,Gangsters Without Bordersoffers a perspective from the point of view of the hard-core members who live this hard, fast, and dangerous life. A powerful and engaging overview of gang dynamics,Gangsters Without Borderscontextualizes the sources and severity of the marginalization felt by Salvadoran immigrants and debunks myths about street gangs in the United States. This account of gangster's lives before, during, and after their involvement with the gang, delivers an intimate and analytical portrait unlike any other.

Author Biography

T.W. Ward is Associate Professor of Teaching in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Southern California.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: War Trauma and the Cycle of Violence
1. José Amaya Is Introduced
His Background and Reasons for Joining MS
2. Stereotypes of Street Gangs
3. Street Gangs as Surrogate Families
4. My Background and How the Research Got Started
5. Methodology
6. Research Objectives
7. Further Methodological Issues
8. Confidentiality
9. Composite Characters
10. 'Hard-core Gangsters'
11. Themes of Subsequent Chapters
Chapter Two: The Beauty and the Horror--Memories of El Salvador
1. José Becomes Trouble
2. Trouble's Fond Homeland Memories
3. Cuscatlán, Land of Riches
4. Revolution in El Salvador
5. Terror in the Streets and at Home
6. Family Ruptures
7. Crossing Borders
Chapter Three: Hard Times--Welcome to America
1. Family Reunion--Mending the Bonds of Trust
2. Tongue Tied and Bullied
3. Gang Initiation--Welcome to the Barrio
4. The Anatomy of a Decision
5. Escape from Misery
6. Jales, Jainas y Ranflas
Chapter Four: From Prey to Predators: The Origins and Transformation of MS
1. Origin Myths of Mara Salvatrucha
2. A Devil's Pact: The Mara Salvatrucha Stoners
3. The Structure and Leadership of Street Gangs
4. Who Calls the Shots?
5. Democratic Anarchy: Collective Leadership within MS
6. Gang Taboos
7. Boredom in Street Gang Life
8. Banging and Slanging
Chapter Five: 'Girls' in Gangs--On the Margins of Masculinity
1. The Death of Lonely
2. Angel's Decision to Join MS
3. Rebels and Runaways
4. Sexing In--'The Easy Way'
5. 'Trust No Bitch'--Spies, Snitches, Traitors, and Rats
6. The Sexual Double Standard
7. Dating the Enemy
8. The 'Catch 22' of Respect
9. Pregnancy and Motherhood
10. 'Mothers of Us All'
11. Angel's Descent
Chapter Six: Live Fast, Die Young
1. Street Gangs as Warrior Societies
2. Who's the Enemy?
3. Gang Warfare
4. The Enemy Within
5. Suicide--Grief and Loss
6. 'The World's Most Dangerous Gang'
Chapter Seven: Becoming Calmado
1. Exiting the Gang
2. De Corazón--The Heart Connection
3. More Die of Heartbreak--The Process of Disillusionment
4. 'The Devil We Know'
5. Afterlives
Chapter Eight: Epilogue
1. Possible Interventions for Gang Members

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