Becoming the ‘Baddest’: Masculine Trajectories of Gang Violence in Medellín

Adam Baird

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    36 Citations (Scopus)
    431 Downloads (Pure)


    Drawing upon 40 life-history interviews with gang members in Medellín, Colombia, this paper argues that many young men join gangs to emulate and reproduce ‘successful’ local male identities. The accumulation by the gang of ‘masculine
    capital’, the material and symbolic signifi ers of manhood, and the accompanying stylistic and timely displays of this capital, means that youths often perceive gangs to be spaces of male success. This drives the social reproduction of gangs. Once in the gang, the youths become increasingly ‘bad’ , using violence to defend the gang’ s interests in exchange for masculine capital. Gang leaders, colloquially known as duros or ‘ hard men’ , tend to be the más malos, the ‘ baddest’ . The ‘ganging process’ should not be understood in terms of aberrant youth behaviour; rather there is practical logic to joining the gang as a site of identity formation for aspirational young men who are coming of age when conditions of structural exclusion conspire against them.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)183-210
    Number of pages28
    JournalJournal of Latin American Studies
    Issue number1
    Early online date14 Jun 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


    • gangs
    • Bourdieu
    • Medellín
    • masculine capital
    • masculinities
    • youth violence
    • urban violence


    Dive into the research topics of 'Becoming the ‘Baddest’: Masculine Trajectories of Gang Violence in Medellín'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this