I have been studying young men in youth gangs in Latin America and Caribbean, mainly in the poor neighborhoods of Medellín, Colombia, for the better part of a decade. I have sat down and talked to lots of young men in gangs, some whom had left gangs, and even their girlfriends and mothers. I have also spoken to young men who didn’t join gangs that came from the very same neighbourhoods and conditions of poverty. Is it possible to trace their trajectories to male adulthood and the processes of socialisation that led some into the gang whist not others? Yes, I think it is. Is it possible to draw up a neat list of causal factors to explain these processes? Well, that is a little more difficult, but it is something we should debate.

Continue Reading

Scientific evidence from a range of disciplines confirms the close connections between early developmental processes and subsequent behavior. Thus, traumatic stress in early childhood can have enduring effects, that in extreme cases may be irreversible despite later remedial or attenuating behavior (Shonkoff et al). A well known example of this coupling between experience and conduct is the case of Romanian orphans, so severely neglected and deprived of sensory stimulation in very early childhood that later intense nurturing failed to reverse serious cognitive and affective deficits (Nelson). Profound neglect is one form of traumatic stressor; violence is another. Research on early childhood confirms the statistical correlation between early exposure to violence, and enduring, often life long, violent subsequent behavior. (Kagitcibasi) Children subjected at home to physical child abuse are more likely to be abusers than those not so exposed; the same is true of children exposed to familial sexual abuse, or of street children who endure police brutality or the violence of gang members from an early age (Rizzini).

Continue Reading

Mainly it is the militaries, intelligence agencies, media and political scientists that guide our understanding of global terrorism and militant Islamism. Sustainability focused academic disciplines allow deeper analysis and can provide holistic answers to difficult questions such as what are the causes of escalating violence among (Muslim) men and to what extent can de-radicalization and other interventions really be treated as solutions etc. It is very important to let development studies and anthropology influence our understanding of militancy and terrorism. Gender theory that has not quite informed or formed our strategies and/or perspectives on issues of militancy, terrorism and counterterrorism, can in reality play a much greater role in proposing practical and effective solutions.

Continue Reading

Rio de Janeiro, along with other Latin American cities, are in the top of global rankings of cities facing high rates of chronic urban violence, of which men are the main perpetrators as the vast majority of homicide victims. Dominant, hyper-masculine or masculinist norms that uphold violence represent a shared characteristic of state-sanctioned and criminal groups in Brazil – including drug trafficking gangs,[i] militia (mostly comprised of off-duty police) and police forces. Understanding that these hyper-masculine norms are constructed during the socialization of boys, and continue to be reinforced as men are exposed to groups that use armed violence can offer insightful strategies to reducing urban violence. This article presents findings from two studies carried out Promundo starting in 1999. Promundo is a Brazilian-based NGO, which now works in more than 20 countries, that carries out applied research, program development and advocacy related to gender equality and violence prevention.

Continue Reading

Ethiopia is at a very critical moment. There is the potential for it to go in a highly marketized and monetized political direction. There is also the potential, if the EPRDF leadership responds to the current situation with what I see as the appropriate measures to consolidate, to turn the developmental successes into a politically solid democratization project.

What is interesting about Sudan, particularly with the squeeze from the oil revenue, is that the Sudanese business class is beginning to assert itself, and that has the potential for stabilizing politics in northern Sudan. There are some very immediate dangers of democracy, to do with Sudan’s engagement with the wider politics of the Middle East and the growth of the defense and security establishments.

Continue Reading

In a WPF policy briefing of March 24, 2016, Alex de Waal warns that South Sudan is entering a dangerous new phase. Below is from the introduction to briefing.

Access pdf of the full briefing.

Introduction

This policy briefing provides an analysis of the risks that South Sudan faces given the current convergent economic, […]

Continue Reading