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Scumbags! An ethnography of the interactions between street-based youth and police officers

Ilan, J. (2016). Scumbags! An ethnography of the interactions between street-based youth and police officers. Policing and Society: an international journal of research and policy, doi: 10.1080/10439463.2016.1257617


The interactions between young, disadvantaged, urban men and the rank-and-file officers who police them should be understood as layered structural, cultural and emotional phenomena. Using data from a multi-dimensional ethnographic project, this paper demonstrates that structural issues manifest in cultural scripts which place both groups in confrontation with each other. Within a tightly bound geographic district, competitiveness between them can be animated by intense emotionality. Frustration, humiliation, disdain and the potential for elation push both parties into behaviours that cannot be understood through discretion and confidence models of decision-making alone. Ultimately, through recognising how questions of inclusion/exclusion play out in simultaneously structural, cultural and emotive ways, the problems generated by negative interactions between the two groups might be meaningfully understood.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Policing and Society on 18 Nov 2016, available online:
Publisher Keywords: Street culture, policing, marginalised youth, ethnography, masculinities
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
Text - Accepted Version
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