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Honor, Normative Ambiguity and Gang Violence

Ruth Horowitz and Gary Schwartz
American Sociological Review
Vol. 39, No. 2 (Apr., 1974), pp. 238-251
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2094235
Page Count: 14
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Honor, Normative Ambiguity and Gang Violence
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Abstract

This paper examines the social context in which gang violence occurs in a Mexican American community. We argue that gang violence arises in situations where one party impugns the honor of his adversary. This sort of conduct violates the norms of interpersonal etiquette and constitutes, in Goffman's terminology, a violation of "personal space." Gang members fluctuate uneasily between conventional and honor bound responses to these kinds of insults. The paper outlines a theory of normative ambiguity that deals with this movement between two antithetical codes for conduct.

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