Research Center to Host Lecture Exploring Worldview of Gang Youth


Laurence Ralph

The Center for Urban Research and Education (CURE) will offer a free lecture exploring how young gang members develop their worldview and identity at noon Friday, Oct 17.

Laurence Ralph, an assistant professor in the departments of African and African-American Studies, and Anthropology, at Harvard University, will discuss “Gang Nostalgia: Generation, Authority and the Role of History in a Chicago Gang.” Following the lecture, Ralph’s new book, “Renegade Dreams: Living Through Injury in Gangland Chicago,” will be available to purchase and for him to sign.

The talk, which is free of charge and open to the public, will be held in the private dining room in the Campus Center.

For further information, please contact CURE Associate Director Natasha Tursi at or (856) 225-6797.

According to Ralph, a Chicago gang, the Divine Knights, has been devoid of central leadership since a generation of gang members were incarcerated due to the “war on drugs” in the 1980s.

This absence has caused the Divine Knights to splinter into increasingly violent subsets. Decades of gang fracture has had dire consequences for the Divine Knights’ youngest constituency – members whom gang leaders call “renegades” because they supposedly disregard the aspirations of the collective in favor of their own individual pursuits.

Ralph will illustrate how the older gang members see their juniors through the lens of their own “coming-of-age” era. Their nostalgic view of the past blinds them to the problems of the present. Yet it permits them to place blame on the youngest generation of gang members for failing to live up to what has become an impossible standard.

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