Challenging the orthodoxy on pupil gang involvement: when two social fields collide

Irwin-Rogers, Keir and Harding, Simon (2018) Challenging the orthodoxy on pupil gang involvement: when two social fields collide. British Educational Research Journal, 44 (3). pp. 463-479. ISSN 0141-1926

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Based on fieldwork conducted in five alternative provision schools across three large cities in England,
this article explores the relationship between young people’s involvement in urban street gangs
and their attitudes and behaviour in school. By applying and developing a lens of social field theory,
the article highlights the ways in which gang-involved young people navigate their way between two
distinct social fields, namely that of the street gang and that of the school. Although pupil gang
involvement can raise significant issues for schools, particularly around violence and educational
engagement, our findings challenge the prevailing orthodoxy that depicts an entirely negative portrait
of the effects of gang involvement on pupils’ attitudes and behaviour. Instead, through an analysis
of interview and observational data, we argue that there is nothing inevitable about the internal
logic of a gang social field permeating a school’s gates. Young people involved in gangs do not typically
spend their entire waking hours wedded to a ‘gang member’ identity—if they are given the
opportunity to transition away from the gang social field when they enter the school gates, they will
often embrace it. In short, the links between pupils’ involvement in gangs, violent behaviour in
school and engagement in education are more contingent and nuanced than is suggested by the literature
on gangs and schools to date.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Schools; Gangs; Social field; violence; Bourdieu
Subjects: Education > Change theory and change management
Law and criminal justice
Social sciences
Social sciences > Sociology of deviance
Depositing User: Simon Harding
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2018 16:01
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2018 08:56

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