Pugilism and Desistance: Exploring the role of boxing and transitional masculinities in criminal desistance

Ross Deuchar, Thomas Friis Sogaard, Torsten Kolind

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

In recent years much attention has been paid to street gangs as scholars and criminal justice officials strive to understand and counteract the effects of crime and gang membership. While studies that view men’s crime as ways of doing masculinity have long contributed to our knowledge of the dynamics of crime and criminal careers (Messerschmidt and Tomsen 2012), only recently have scholars come to focus explicitly on role of masculinity in criminal desistance (Carlsson 2013). This paper draws together emerging insights from an ethnographic study of young male offenders participating in a ‘boxing-rehabilitation-center’ (BRC) located in a community characterized by gang violence in Copenhagen. The paper explores how boxing provides avenues for alternative masculine identity constructions, generativity and desistance.

Male offenders’ desistance from crime is often the result of multiple factors. In recent years scholars have become more attentive to how family formation and stable employment in conjuncture with the development of alternative masculine identities as fathers, providers or family men are among the powerful factors (Moloney et al. 2009). Contributing to such studies focusing on alternative resources for doing masculinity, this paper explores how the boxing gym constitutes an arena for the formation of alternative homo-social peer-groups and masculinities.

In the paper we describe how boxing provides a masculine mythology of struggle, change and victory which are deployed by the young men to describe their refrainment from criminal involvement, to build a sense of agency, and to construct new respectable masculine identities. Sport, physical activities and pugilistic fighting are often claimed to have a “natural” appeal to marginalized men and to be effective technologies of re-socialization. While physical pugilist training at the BRC did hold the potential for youngsters to build confidence and self-worth, we show how fears of de-masculinization often led youngsters to refrain from active participation. Rather than the physical training in itself, we show how many young former offenders, eager to stay out of crime and gangs, are attracted to the BRC because here they can participate in an alternative homo-social peer-group bases on fun, easy-going interaction, responsible relationships, and non-criminal activities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Eventeurocrim 2014: 14th Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology - Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 10 Sep 201413 Sep 2014

Conference

Conferenceeurocrim 2014: 14th Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology
CountryCzech Republic
CityPrague
Period10/09/1413/09/14

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    Deuchar, R., Sogaard, T. F., & Kolind, T. (2014). Pugilism and Desistance: Exploring the role of boxing and transitional masculinities in criminal desistance. Paper presented at eurocrim 2014: 14th Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology, Prague, Czech Republic. http://www.esc-eurocrim.org/files/eurocrim-2014-book-of-abstracts-update-2014-09-13.pdf