Joan Moore and Latino Gang Research

03-07-16 joanmooreblog

This Friday, March 11, the Great Cities Institute will sponsor a forum on Latino gang research honoring Joan Moore. Several of her students, including Lalo Valdez and Diego Vigil, Robert Durán, Alice Cepada and John Hagedorn will present on their gang research and reflections on the influence of Joan Moore on their work.

Who is Joan Moore? Joan was the co-author of the country’s first large scale study on Mexican Americans. Her role in the Mexican American Study Project was to organize community studies across the Southwest to document the lives of what was called ‘the silent minority.” As Mexican Americans were protesting injustice in the late 1960s she worked with LUCHA, a self help group of ex addicts and pintos, or gang members founded in San Quentin prison. Together they embarked on an unprecedented study of male and female gang members in three East Los Angeles barrios and described generations of gang members and their changing struggles for justice and survival. The research questions of the studies were those the pintos themselves helped develop.  Joan devised a never yet duplicated methodology in gang research of random sampling of rosters of gang klikas, or age-graded groups. The pinto researchers believed that good quality research and exposure of the discrimination and conditions of their lives could persuade policy makers and the public of the need for more humane public policies and the evils of a reliance on incarceration.

As is often the case in academia, no good deed remains unpunished and Joan was denied tenure at USC for blatantly political and non-scientific reasons. She moved to Milwaukee where I had the good fortune of learning from her collaborative methods which guided my studies of Milwaukee gangs.  Joan retired twenty years ago and is bravely fighting terminal colon cancer.

Joan concludes her autobiography written for this forum in typically modest fashion. “I am enormously grateful to those who share my concerns with the vitality of collaborative research, with defensible methodology and with social justice. They help me feel that I’ve kept faith with our pinto collaborators.”

Joan Willard Moore is an exemplar of how to do research that can be useful for social justice and for Latino communities.

Grebler, L., Joan Moore, Ralph C. Guzman (1970). The Mexican-American People; The nation’s second largest minority. New York, The Free Press.

Moore, J. W. (1978). Homeboys: Gangs, Drugs, and Prison in the Barrios of Los Angeles. Philadelphia, Temple University Press.

Moore, J. W. (1991). Going Down to the Barrio: Homeboys and Homegirls in Change. Philadelphia, Temple University Press.

About the Author:
John Hagedorn, Professor of Criminology, Law and Justice. John Hagedorn is the author of People & Folks, Gangs, Crime, and the Underclass in a Rustbelt City. This book re-framed the study of gangs in the United States by focusing on the impact of deindustrialization. He is currently studying why Chicago’s homicide rate has not decline like New York City’s.