2016-2017: Funded by British Academy / Leverhulme Trust. 'From transnational crime to local insecurity: How drug-trafficking penetrates communities and creates violent masculinities in Belize'
At the end of the 1990s gang driven homicide rates in Belize and Trinidad boomed and today remain amongst the highest in the world. That these homicide booms occurred as drug transhipments increased, makes casual connections between drugs and violence an intuitive and frequent assumption. This article argues that the role that drugs transhipment plays in sparking transitions to violence is often assumed and overstated, and alone is a weak predictor of violence. The comparative research presented finds that historic, chronic vulnerability in the poor neighbourhoods of eastern Port of Spain and southside Belize City played a defining role in the rise of street gangs; whilst increased lethality is directly attributable to inflows of firearms, which had different transhipment routes and political economies to drugs when homicide booms occurred. Ominously, once a violent street culture is established, it is resilient, guns stay, gangs evolve, and homicide levels persist.
Belize has one of the highest homicide rates in the world; however, the gangs at the heart of this violence have rarely been studied. Using a masculinities lens and original empirical data, this article explores how Blood and Crip “gang transnationalism” from the United States of America flourished in Belize City. Gang transnationalism is understood as a “transnational masculinity” that makes cultural connections between local settings of urban exclusion. On one hand, social terrains in Belize City generated masculine vulnerabilities to the foreign gang as an identity package with the power to reconfigure positions of subordination; on the other, the establishment of male gang practices with a distinct hegemonic shape, galvanized violence and a patriarchy of the streets in already marginalized communities. This article adds a new body of work on gangs in Belize, and gang transnationalism, whilst contributing to theoretical discussions around the global to local dynamics of hegemonic masculinities discussed by Connell and Messerschmidt (2005) and Messerschmidt (2018).