Til bevillingsoversigt

Gang economies: a study of submerged currencies in the Øresund region

Reintegration Fellowships


This project will study the submerged economies of Danish gangs which are expanding not only across the nation, but also towards Sweden. I propose to innovate the field of study on organised crime by focusing on the neglected currencies involved in shaping gangs. By currency I do not intend a specific valuta such as the krone or an illegal equivalent, but more broadly, a system of signs that has an affective resonance within a group, and thereby, that part-takes in shaping it. For example it will explore the role that signs (tattoos, tags or logos), events (car races or album releases), and specific atmospheres (rituals of passage or brotherhood chants) might play in the "marketing" of these gangs across cities and regions.


Research from other regions has suggested the benefits of considering gangs as enterprises. Criminologists themselves have begun to shift their focus from answering questions of 'who is part of OC, and how many OC groups are there' to 'what things is OC investing in'. What these studies omit, however, is that economy is not only about rationally allocating investments in a given sector. Economies are also highly communicative organisational practices. This study will draw on a rich repertoire of traditions (economic sociology, aesthetics and cultural studies). This theoretical advancement will be accompanied by an empirical contribution: to make visible the less visible everyday aspects of Danish gangs.


I will base my research on secondary sources such as newspaper articles and reports from the social services, tax office and police departments of Sweden and Denmark. Based on my initial coding of the secondary data, I will collect from these partners, I will undertake a series of interviews with key informants such as social workers and gang members that are in prison. I will also work closely with the ex-gang members, who can give me further insight into the different forms of organisation and will open up new access points to carry out ethnographic studies with current members.


Knowledge on the communicative aspects of gang-formation is not only necessary in order to hinder their success, but also to provide a basis for understanding how black economies thrive in Europe as well as in other parts of the world. Indeed, international OC is a very successful enterprise: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimate that the total global criminal proceeds sum up 3.6% of the global GDP. Yet little is known on how these economies are formed. This project will contribute to uncovering these aspects, and, importantly, to exploring Scandinavia gangs, which are not receiving enough scientific attention. Due to the recent rise in violence and their radicalisation of these groups, these are matters which require urgent attention, for the present and the future.