David Brotherton Secures Guggenheim Grant for Study of Street-Gang Legalization in Ecuador

Head shot photo of Graduate Center Professor David BrothertonProfessor David Brotherton (GC/John Jay, Urban Education/Sociology) was awarded $42,000 by The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation for his study of an unprecedented policy intended to reduce violence: the legalization of street gangs in Ecuador.
Unlike almost all violence reduction strategies implemented in Latin America during the last two decades, Ecuador has adopted social inclusionary initiatives, including street gang legalization. Against many expectations, the nation is currently benefiting from one of the most sustained drops in homicide in the world.
The Guggenheim award will help fund the second phase of Brotherton’s multi-year ethnographic study focusing on Ecuador’s three largest street gangs. His research will answer two questions related to the effects of gang legalization: How has the relationship between the government and the street gangs changed, and how have the street gangs changed?  
“This is the first time we have been able to test a progressive policy of gang social control without resorting to heightened measures of repression that largely target poor communities,” Brotherton says. “In Latin America, the results of punitive anti-gang policies have been disastrous as the results in Central America and Brazil can attest, where some of the highest rates of homicide in nations not at war are being recorded anywhere in the world.”
Brotherton started examining the possibilities of gangs acting as agents of positive social change in New York City in the late 1990s. He proposed that under certain conditions, at least some gangs could function as social movements.
“My observations and interpretations have now been confirmed in Ecuador,” he says. “Both sociologically and criminologically, this research turns a lot of mainstream approaches to deviance on its head.”

Photo of Ecuador Latin Kings and Queens gang meeting in rural locationGeneral meeting of the Ecuador Latin Kings and Queens held at the teachers’ union recreation center in Guayaquil, August 2017

Submitted on: FEB 28, 2019

Category: Faculty Awards | Grants | Sociology | Urban Education