Through an Indigenous Lens: Understanding Indigenous Masculinity and Street Gang Involvement
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Colonization has had a detrimental impact on Indigenous peoples and communities. Colonization has and continues to remove Indigenous peoples from full participation in Canadian society, which has forced some Indigenous men to search out other avenues in order to gain power, respect, and economic capital to survive. It is the direct result of colonial-shaped socio-political histories and ideologies that have led to the creation and proliferation of urban Indigenous street gangs. This dissertation examines 16 Indigenous male ex-gang members and their perceptions of masculinity, identity, and how this is supported through their involvement within a street gang. Relational accountability was the methodology utilized to engage and support the men through the course of the research process. It was from the focal point of relational accountability that photovoice methods could be modified to accommodate the lived realities of the men during the time of the study. Overall, fifteen individuals participated in the study, with nine engaging in photovoice methods to document and explain how they understood and practiced masculinity. The nine men, who completed photovoice, had their photographs and narratives brought together to create Brighter Days Ahead, to give back to the organization STR8 UP and help inform the broader community about the multiple issues that Indigenous youth face in the Canadian Prairies. The role of masculinity was integral for the men’s inclusion into street gangs. Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity and Bourdieu’s concept of habitus helped to create a framework to understand why some Indigenous men see street gangs as a viable option to practice masculinity. By examining the men’s histories, with a focus on their relationships’ with parents, siblings, family, peers, and social institutions, a more robust understanding the linkages to street gang involvement is created. The street gang epitomized the ideal “man”— tough, independent, emotion-less, and powerful, as it were these individual’s whom they would target for their recruitment. Analysis of the men’s narratives and photographs revealed how violence and trauma impacted their notions of maleness. It was through violent and traumatic experiences that the men would create a “mask” that they would wear to help them engage in hyper-violent behaviours within multiple fields and protect them from further victimization. This study directs our attention to focus future research on: 1) the impacts of colonization as both a historical and contemporary factor in the lives of Indigenous peoples; 2) the importance of relational accountability within the research process; 3) the potential of photovoice methods in expanding street gangs research; and 4) the need for gang prevention and intervention programming to focus on the concept of masculinity in order to deter gang involvement amongst Indigenous males and build healthier stronger communities.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeBrooks, Carolyn; Innes, Robert; Lalibert, Ron; St. Denis, Verna
Copyright DateMarch 2015
Indigenous research methods