Chapter 1 elaborates the divergent trajectories of gangs in the US, England, and Scotland. The chapter identifies and analyses four clear shifts in gang research and response—street to database, subcultures to crime, local to global, ethnography to dataset—that cohere in the development of an imagination of a ‘global gang’ phenomenon that is ripe for media scaremongering and political entrepreneurialism. These shifts are representative of a broader set of changes in the academic field, wherein grounded ethnographic accounts are increasingly marginalized. The chapter draws attention, crucially, to a developing seam of critical research that acts as counter-current to these increasingly homogenizing forces, making the case for a coherent theoretical and methodological agenda for advancing sociological knowledge of gangs in the UK and beyond.
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