Slipping the Line: The Embodied and Affective Materiality of Gang Territories

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Curran, Amelia




In both popular and academic accounts, one of the defining features of gangs is their strong attachment to turf—the home territory under the control of a gang. However, the concept of gang territory often remains narrowly defined as a static and bounded region claimed, defended, and controlled by gang members; a view that fails to account for versions of space beyond settler colonial models. In contrast, this dissertation uses a new materialist lens to attend to the ways gang territories are made, maintained, and disrupted through the daily practices of a variety of actors. I draw on multi-sited qualitative fieldwork in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a city referred to as the gang capital of Canada. Through interviews with gang and non-gang-affiliated residents, police, and administrators working or living within gang territories, I show that gang territories are made material through various embodied practices that enact these spaces in affective, emergent, mobile, and multiple forms. I argue that central to the materialization of gang territories are embodied regularities that contribute to the multiplicity and mobility of boundaries, to gang space that takes shape as new mobilities and conditions of the body, and as territory that spatializes as the racialized body. This project expands gang research by highlighting gang behaviours and processes outside the scope of criminal enterprise, and by showing territorialization as a process that implicates a broad range of actors. Recognizing the role of multiple actors encourages a relational ethics of accountability between bodies, practices, and place that challenges the often-naturalized connections between race, space, and crime. Understanding gang space as enacted through embodied material practices provides an alternative way to think through, trace, and disrupt these associations.


Criminology and Penology




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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