"I feared for my life" - A study of gang members' creation of meaning and fear in the gang environment

Lujain Albarazi

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of this master thesis master thesis is to investigate which dimensions contribute to the creation of meaning in relation to gang membership. Furthermore, the master thesis examines what it means for gang members to live in fear of their own and/or their family's safety. Finally, the connection between the creation of meaning and fear is considered.
The master thesis draws on concepts of critical psychology in the analysis including the concepts: Agency, condition, meaning and reasons for actions. In addition, the first person perspective and the concept of co-researcher will be central to the methodological approach. Furthermore the analysis builds on Karl Weick's sensemaking theory and the related concepts of enactment, identity, cues, social and ongoing. Furthermore, the master thesis’ conception of fear is based on Garofalo's definition thereof.
Four qualitative interviews with two former band members was undertaken for this study. The master thesis identifies five aspects, which plays a central role in the interviewee’s creation of meaning: 1. Their upbringing, 2. 'Obtaining a name' in the gang environment and achieving power, recognition and respect (this also entails being feared and cultivating masculinity), 3. The fraternity or the lack thereof, 4. The interviewees religious affiliation and 5. Their experience of fear.
The interviewees' fears of their own and their family's safety was found to result in a state of paranoia and mistrust that lasted over an extended period of time.
The master thesis identifies three connections between the creation of meaning and fear. Firstly, the excitement that is felt through the creation of fear contributes to the meaning creation process. Secondly, fear contributes to a strengthening the self-image held by one of the interviewees, which in turn can also be viewed as a contribution to the creation of meaning.
Thirdly, fear is considered an unavoidable side effect of gang membership. Fear is thus viewed as a necessary price to pay for gaining access to the benefits of being a gang member that the interviewee find meaningful. Consequently, gang membership entails and contributes with both positive and negative aspects which coexist are correlated.
Lastly, the master thesis highlights how the findings can be used and for whom the information may be relevant. This is done by utilising two perspectives with seemingly opposing interests: The gangs themselves and the government.

EducationsPsychology, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Graduate
Publication date15 Jun 2019
Number of pages83
SupervisorsErnst Schraube