Views from the Streets

The Transformation of Gangs and Violence on Chicago's South Side

Roberto R. Aspholm

Columbia University Press

Views from the Streets

Pub Date: February 2020

ISBN: 9780231187732

288 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: February 2020

ISBN: 9780231187725

288 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£74.00

Pub Date: February 2020

ISBN: 9780231547437

288 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£25.00

Views from the Streets

The Transformation of Gangs and Violence on Chicago's South Side

Roberto R. Aspholm

Columbia University Press

Chicago has long served as a symbol of urban pathology in the public imagination. The city’s staggering levels of violence and entrenched gang culture occupy a central place in the national discourse, yet remain poorly understood and are often stereotyped. Views from the Streets explains the dramatic transformation of black street gangs on Chicago’s South Side during the early twenty-first century, shedding new light on why gang violence persists and what might be done to address it.

Drawing on years of community work and in-depth interviews with gang members, Roberto R. Aspholm describes in vivid detail the internal rebellions that shattered the city’s infamous corporate-style African American street gangs. He explores how, in the wake of these uprisings, young gang members have radically refashioned gang culture and organization on Chicago’s South Side, rejecting traditional hierarchies and ideologies and instead embracing a fierce ethos of personal autonomy that has made contemporary gang violence increasingly spontaneous and unregulated. In calling attention to the historical context of these issues and to the elements of resistance embedded in Chicago’s contemporary gang culture, Aspholm challenges conventional views of gang members as inherently pathological. He critically analyzes highly touted “universal” violence prevention strategies, depicting street-level realities to illuminate why they have ultimately failed to reduce levels of bloodshed. An unprecedented analysis of the nature and meaning of gang violence, Views from the Streets proposes an alternative framework for addressing the seemingly intractable issues of inequality, despair, and violence in Chicago.
I am very excited about Views from the Streets. It addresses central questions in contemporary gang research: What’s going on in Chicago? Why have the highly touted interventions there had little effect? Why are there so many killings? It does so by offering what is deeply needed but rarely accomplished in this field: a grounded analysis providing a convincing, cogent understanding of local history and social dynamics. Moreover and most refreshingly, it appreciates rather than ironicizes and pathologizes the voices of gang members. This is the book I’ve been waiting for: a nuanced explanation that matters. Robert Garot, author of Who You Claim: Performing Gang Identity in School and on the Streets
The most important book on Chicago gangs in decades, Views from the Streets vividly describes how and why African American gangs in Chicago fractured and radically transformed. In recounting this story, Roberto R. Aspholm gives voice to the anguished cries of young men trying desperately to create meaning in impossible conditions. John Hagedorn, author of A World of Gangs: Armed Young Men and Gangsta Culture
In this path-breaking book, Roberto R. Aspholm reminds us that our understandings of contemporary gang culture remain mired in nostalgia and urban legend. Views from the Streets provides an unprecedented look at the new social dynamics resulting from public housing demolitions, displacement, and pervasive carceral control. It is indispensable reading for anyone wishing to understand contemporary gangs and for all who hope to end urban violence. Cedric Johnson, author of Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics
In Views from the Streets, Aspholm brings research on Chicago gangs into the twenty-first century where social media, cell phones, and an unabashed sense of individualism and democracy have brought about the demise of the city’s once monolithic corporate gangs. Aspholm's nuanced study provides a new—and much needed—theoretical lens on contemporary gang life that will set the stage for a new generation of gang scholars. Andrew Papachristos, Northwestern University
Aspholm dares to tell a complex and layered story of life in Chicago. By dismissing the commonplace deficit-based narratives on Black life in street organizations (gangs), readers are challenged to confront the residual affects of disinvestment and displacement. Instead of a 'gang problem,' Chicago has a white supremacy problem rooted in tactics of fracture, isolation, marginalization, and containment. David Stovall, University of Illinois at Chicago
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. The Shattering of Chicago’s Black Street Gangs
2. From Street Organizations to Cliques: Black Street Gangs in Chicago Today
3. The Anatomy of Contemporary Gang Violence in Chicago
4. Understanding the Persistence of Gangs and Violence in Chicago
5. A Critical Appraisal of Violence Prevention Failures
Conclusion: Reducing Gang Violence from the Streets Up
Appendix: Notes on Positionality, the Politics of Representation, and Research Methodology
A Partial Glossary of Chicago Gang Slang
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Roberto R. Aspholm is assistant professor of social work at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.