Latino Gang Research: The Impact of Joan Moore

From the left: Alice Cepeda, Avelardo Valdez, Diego Vigil, John Hagedorn, Robert Durán, and GCI Director Teresa Córdova engage in discussion.

From the left: Alice Cepeda, Avelardo Valdez, Diego Vigil, John Hagedorn, Robert Durán, and GCI Director Teresa Córdova engage in discussion. Photo by Miguel Vasquez

This past Friday proved to be an engaging and thought-provoking forum on Latino gang structures and their impacts on the wellbeing of both communities and individuals. The research and rigorous collaborative methodology of Joan Moore has proven to be impactful over the years. Across the United States, her former students are producing meaningful research on Latino gangs and engaged in both applying that research to policy issues and individual cases surrounding the incarceration and treatment of former gang members. Friday’s speakers were:

  • Alice Cepeda is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California. She received her PhD in Sociology from the City University of New York, Graduate Center. Her research examines the complex of social determinants that influence the development of drug abuse health disparities across generations of Mexican-origin populations. Dr. Cepeda has been a recipient of several National Institutes of Health federal grants. Her most recent National Institute on Drug Abuse funded study is following up a cohort of Mexican American adolescent females who were affiliated with male gang members during their adolescence.
  • Robert Durán is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Tennessee. His areas of research concern racism in the post-civil rights era and community resistance, from gang evolution and border surveillance to disproportionate minority contact and officer involved shootings. He is the author of Gang Life in Two Cities: An Insider’s Journey (2013) and his forthcoming book is The Gang Paradox: Inequalities and Miracles on the U.S.-Mexico Border, both published by Columbia University Press. He is the recipient of the 2010 Hispanic Faculty and Staff Caucus Junior Faculty of the Year Award at New Mexico State University and the 2011 New Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology Division on People of Color and Crime.
  • John Hagedorn is a Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He 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. He is beginning a study of “armed young men” around the world, including institutionalized gangs, para-militaries, militant fundamentalists, terrorists, and drug cartels. He is co-editor of Female Gangs in America: Essays on Girls, Gangs, and Gender, the only edited volume ever published in the U.S. on female gangs. He is the designer of the website: net and is currently writing a history of gangs in Chicago.
  • Avelardo Valdez is a Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California. A primary focus of his research is on the relationship between substance use and violence. His research have been among populations such as youth and adult gang members, injecting and non-injecting heroin users, sex workers on the U.S./Mexico border, immigrant day laborers, Katrina evacuees and crack use in Mexico City. He is a recipient of numerous grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. He is involved in longitudinal study of Mexican American male gang members in San Antonio. He was appointed by the National Academy of Sciences to the Committee on the Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration that published The Growth of Incarceration in the United States (2014). He obtained his Ph.D. in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Diego Vigil is a Professor in the School of Social Ecology at the University of California at Irvine. His education includes a doctorate and a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of California at Los Angeles. He has taught and/or held administrative positions as visiting professor at Harvard University, as professor of anthropology and Director of the Center for the Study of Urban Poverty at UCLA for five years, and as professor of anthropology and Director of Ethnic Studies at the University of Southern California for fifteen years. His expertise is in urban street youth, urban psychology, socialization, and educational anthropology, as well as in the ethnohistory of Mexico and the United States Southwest. Vigil also acts as a consultant and an expert witness in cultural defense in gang-related homicides.

Future Great Cities Institute activities and blogs will address some of the recommended policy changes made by these esteemed researchers.

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