Race, Gangs, Identity, and ConflictRobert D. Weide
Hyper-criminalization and the normalization of violence was an integral aspect of Robert Weide’s formative years growing up in Los Angeles in the 1980s and 1990s, where Sureño, Crip, and Blood gangs maintained a precarious coexistence, often punctuated by racialized gang violence. His insider status informs Divide & Conquer, which considers how the capitalist economy, the race concept, and nationalist ideology have made gang members the instruments of their own oppression, resulting in racialized sectarian conflicts spanning generations between African American and Latino gangs in Los Angeles and California’s prisons.
While gang members may fail to appreciate the deeper historical and conceptual foundations of these conflicts, they rarely credit naked bigotry as the root cause. As Weide asserts, they divide themselves according to inherited groupist identities, thereby turning them against one another in protracted blood feuds across gang lines and racial lines.
Weide explores both the historical foundations and the conceptual and cultural boundaries and biases that divide gang members across racial lines, detailing case studies of specific racialized gang conflicts between Sureño, Crip, and Blood gangs. Weide employs mixed-methods research, having spent nearly a decade on ethnographic fieldwork and conducted over one hundred formal interviews with gang members and gang enforcement officers concerning taboo subjects like prison and gang politics, and transracial gang membership.
Divide & Conquer concludes with encouraging developments in recent years, as gang members themselves, on their own volition, have intervened to build solidarity and bring racialized gang conflicts between them to an end.
“This is a provocative, clearly-written participant-ethnographic and mixed-methods longue durée study of Los Angeles gangs that documents the tragedy of racialized urban killing fields in the United States. Weide argues that racist law enforcement governance practices and the populist appeal of U.S. race-based identity politics blind the most vulnerable sectors of the surplus working class to their common political-material self-interests.”—Philippe Bourgois, author of In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio and coauthor of Righteous Dopefiend
“Divide & Conquer focuses on the agency of gang members and the imprisoned in order to highlight their experiences and analyses that allow them to engineer prison strikes for human rights, win concessions, and decrease violence and harm. With complex organizing, they build transracial/ethnic unity within dangerous California prisons. Their leadership challenges violent captivity to offer transracial peacemaking and solidarity strategies. Departing from popular abolitionist narratives, Divide & Conquer reminds us that we need transformative leadership from those inside prison and underground economies as they, and we, collectively challenge the racism, capitalism, poverty, exploitation, and dishonor that shape our alienation.”—Joy James, author of In Pursuit of Revolutionary Love: Precarity, Power, Communities
“Divide & Conquer is groundbreaking gang scholarship featuring a tremendous amount of historical background and 'insider' knowledge. Weide systematically analyzes and describes the black and brown tension among gangs in Los Angeles. The remarkable access Weide had to so many L.A. gang members and his ability to get them to speak about this sensitive issue are invaluable. This book certainly poses a challenge to the conventional gang and race/ethnicity literature.”—Randol Contreras, Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside, and author of The Stickup Kids: Race, Drugs, Violence, and the American Dream
Studies in Transgression, edited by David C. Brotherton, publishes books at the intersection of sociology and critical criminology. This series challenges the normative conventions of the broader study of crime to produce a fuller accounting of a society’s responsibilities for and complicity in the threats and wrongdoing that come to be seen as police-able crimes. The series examines behaviors understood as transgressive by looking at the cultural assumptions that contextualize that reading and the structural factors that underlie those behaviors. Books in the series will examine marginal lifestyles and their relationship to crime around the Unites States and the globe. Perspective authors should contact the series edtior David C. Brotherton or Temple University Press Editor Ryan Mulligan to discuss their work in progress for inclusion in the series.