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Negotiating pathways to manhood: Violence reproduction in Medellin's periphery. Exploring habitus and masculinity to explain young men's decisions to join armed groups in poor urban neighbourhoods of Colombia

By Adam D.S. Baird


In recent years urban violence has become understood as a\ud 'reproduced', multi-causal and socially generated phenomenon. Less is\ud understood about why young men reproduce the majority of this violence.\ud This thesis uses original empirical data based on thirty-two life-histories of\ud youths living in two poor and violent neighbourhoods in Medellín, Colombia. It\ud argues that urban violence is reproduced by male youths because it is linked\ud to 'masculinity'; that is, the process of 'becoming men' where youths strive to\ud fulfil productive or 'successful' models of masculinity. These processes are\ud related to contexts of poverty, inequality and exclusion, so this thesis does not\ud reduce the generation of urban violence to masculinity alone. Rather,\ud understanding masculinity provides us with further insight into the\ud reproduction of violence. This thesis further argues that male youths are\ud disposed by their habitus - after Pierre Bourdieu - to negotiate a pathway to\ud manhood that largely reflects traditional masculine values in their context.\ud Striving to achieve prevailing versions of manhood contributed to some of\ud these youths joining armed groups, such as gangs. The gang acted as a\ud mechanism to fulfil their dispositions to become men, by providing them with a\ud way to perform a version of 'successful' masculinity. This is prevalent in urban\ud contexts of exclusion and high levels of social violence, because there are\ud limited opportunities to achieve legal and dignified versions of manhood,\ud whilst there are significant opportunities to join the local gang. The youths\ud interviewed that did not join gangs tended to come from families that taught\ud them to reject violence at a young age, whilst supporting them in pursuing\ud alternative pathways to manhood. Youths that joined gangs tended to have\ud more problems at home and often had family members already in gangs.ESRC, and University of Bradfor

Topics: Urban violence, ; Masculinity, ; Medellín, ; Gangs, ; Paramilitaries, ; Bourdieu, ; Habitus, ; Colombia, ; Violent neighbourhoods
Publisher: Department of Peace Studies
Year: 2011
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Bradford Scholars

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