Redefining Gangsterism: Social Change Agents in the Black Power
The war on gangs in Aotearoa New Zealand seems to be a never-ending battle. Sensationalist rhetoric in the media and anti-gang political discourse fosters a range of negative stereotypes about gangs and those within them, presenting them as fundamentally criminal organisations. This thesis challenges the dominant narrative on gangs by instead exploring their evolving social movement potential. Drawing on participatory action research and collaborative partnerships established within the Black Power rōpū – one of the most well-known ‘gangs’ in the country – it shows members taking up important roles as agents of social change. The research found members reinterpreting in a localised context the anti-racist symbolism of the global Black Power movement, along with adopting practices and techniques more commonly associated with social movements. Through the kōrero of members themselves, this research shows how the rōpū are actively redefining the very meaning of the terms ‘gang’ and ‘gangster’. The research not only challenges prevailing public stereotypes within Aotearoa New Zealand, but contributes to the wider field of gang research by developing a collaborative methodology that works with not on the community that is ‘the gang’ and by demonstrating the roles these collectives play in grassroots projects of social transformation.