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Crime must be understood as a facet of class-cultural interaction, given that the majority of the convicted are young, urban, disadvantaged males, while the criminal law enshrines and enforces what could be viewed as middle-class behavioural expectations. Class-cultural dynamics have become increasingly complex in late modernity, however, with traditional certainties and class boundaries becoming blurred and indistinct. This thesis examines the social and cultural factors underlying youth offending and justice in an inner-city Dublin community through an ethnographic treatment of the various actors in a locality which has undergone significant change in recent years. The Crew, a group of young offenders, are shown to adhere to a ‘rough’ or ‘street’ variant of working class values, born of the experience of particularly intense disadvantage and exclusion. The group’s base is in the Northstreet community, which historically condoned a level of petty criminality as a response to the absolute poverty experienced by its residents. Internal divisions, economic resurgence and urban renewal have altered the way of life for the majority of the residents of this public housing complex, which has rendered the young offenders both a symbolic reminder of the past, and an obstacle to community leadership attempts to represent contemporary Northstreet as a ‘respectable area’. While developments in policing strategies have in turn blurred the traditional opposition between the Gardai and working-class communities, The Crew and the police force nevertheless continue to construct each other as opponents, engaging in a game-like conflict fuelled by the clash of ‘street’ and ‘decent’ values. In turn, the state’s attempt to divert The Crew from offending through ‘welfare’ juvenile justice represents an effort to replace ‘street’ values with ‘respectable’ attitudes to crime, education and employment. Youth crime and justice can thus be understood as a ‘game’; an interaction between opposing, class-based value systems complete with encultured responses to the behaviour and beliefs of the ‘other’.
Ilan, J.: Still playing the game : an ethnography of young people, street crime and juvenile justice in the inner-city Dublin community. Dublin : Dublin Institute of Technology, 2007.