Perspectives on the in-between
Gangs occupy a prominent place in the media and in political discourse of many Latin American countries. They are accused of various ills—from delinquency to violence and, in passing, drug trafficking—and sometimes even of destroying society at large. However, these groups remain mostly unknown. So far, official data and statistics, media analyses, and even criminology studies do not adequately account for the heterogeneity and short-to-long term evolutions of maras, pandillas and other Latin American gangs. To this end, ethnography can be quite useful. Contrary to the common belief that their extreme violence would make such an approach impossible, researchers have been able to use ethnography to investigate these gangs since the early 1990s. In this special issue of Cultures & Conflicts, the articles present their main results and discuss ethnography as the most appropriate method for understanding the everyday reality of these groups and their transformation over time.
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