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Understanding gangs as armed groups

30-06-2010 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 878, by Jennifer M. Hazen

Gangs have long been considered a source of violence and insecurity, but they are increasingly identified as a cause of instability and a threat to the state. Yet gangs operate mainly in non-conflict settings, raising questions about whether applying a conflict lens to understand gangs is appropriate.

 

Dr. Jennifer M. Hazen is a Fellow at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Her areas of expertise include armed groups, conflict dynamics, and post-conflict peace-building processes. 

Abstract 
Gangs have long been considered a source of violence and insecurity, but they are increasingly identified as a cause of instability and a threat to the state. Yet gangs operate mainly in non-conflict settings, raising questions about whether applying a conflict lens to understand gangs is appropriate. Marked differences appear between armed groups and gangs when considering concepts of ungoverned spaces, the state, violence, and sustainability. Few gangs reach the threshold of posing a direct challenge to the state; this makes comparisons with other armed groups difficult and suggests the need for a more specific analytical lens.






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