Becoming a Citizen:The Process of Leaving a Gang in Cape Town, South Africa

University essay from Lunds universitet/Socialhögskolan; Lunds universitet/Sociologi

Abstract: This study investigates the process of how eight people left competing informal institutions, in the form of gangs, to join substitutive informal institutions, which is more compatible with a democratic society, and in this way became ‘good citizens’. The research question is as follows: How do ex-gang members explain their change in lifestyle, from past involvement in gangs to the subsequent transformation in their present day lives? Life-story interviews have been carried out with former gang members that have then been transcribed and analysed in alignment with Riessman’s (2008) dialogic/performance analysis and Rose Ebough´s (1988) Role-exit theory. Moreover, to understand in what context these personal processes have taken place and the impact they make on the society of Cape Flats, Helmke & Levitsky’s (2004) framework on how to analyse informal institutions, and their impact on political agenda have been used. Three main findings were made. Firstly gang membership is closely linked to shaping of identity. Secondly, the role of being an Ex-gang member was mainly portrayed as something positive and useful for society. Thirdly, to be accepted in the positive role of an Ex-gang member, the interviewees gained trust by presenting themselves referring to cultural credits as religion and taking family seriously. Finally, policy makers and practitioners, including both public and NGOs could benefit by acknowledging the process of leaving gangs. If more people left competitive informal institutions to join substitutive informal institutions Cape Flats may begin to move in the direction of a more secure and democratic society where development of social services can take place.

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