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Homegirls: Language and Cultural Practice Among Latina Youth Gangs

ISBN: 978-0-631-23489-0
360 pages
January 2008, Wiley-Blackwell
Homegirls: Language and Cultural Practice Among Latina Youth Gangs (0631234896) cover image
In this ground-breaking new book on the Norte?a and Sure?a (North/South) youth gang dynamic, cultural anthropologist and linguist Norma Mendoza-Denton looks at the daily lives of young Latinas and their innovative use of speech, bodily practices, and symbolic exchanges that signal their gang affiliations and ideologies. Her engrossing ethnographic and sociolinguistic study reveals the connection of language behavior and other symbolic practices among Latina gang girls in California, and their connections to larger social processes of nationalism, racial/ethnic consciousness, and gender identity.

* An engrossing account of the Norte and Sur girl gangs - the largest Latino gangs in California

* Traces how elements of speech, bodily practices, and symbolic exchanges are used to signal social affiliation and come together to form youth gang styles

* Explores the relationship between language and the body: one of the most striking aspects of the tattoos, make-up, and clothing of the gang members

* Unlike other studies - which focus on violence, fighting and drugs - Mendoza-Denton delves into the commonly-overlooked cultural and linguistic aspects of youth gangs
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List of Figures viii

List of Tables x

Acknowledgments xi

Acknowledgment of Sources xiv

Introduction 1

1 La Migra 10

2 Beginning Fieldwork 42

3 Norte and Sur: Government, School, and Research Perspectives 76

4 Hemispheric Localism: Language, Racialized Nationalism, and the Politicization of Youth 101

5 "Muy Macha": Gendered Performances and the Avoidance of Social Injury 148

6 Smile Now Cry Later: Memorializing Practices Linking Language, Materiality, and Embodiment 176

7 Icons and Exemplars: Ethnographic Approaches in Variationist Sociolinguistics 207

8 Variation in a Community of Practice 230

9 "That's the Whole Thing [tin]!": Discourse Markers and Teenage Speech 265

10 Conclusion 292

References 297

Appendix 324

Index 328

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Norma Mendoza-Denton is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, and the founder and director of the Linguistic Anthropology Research and Teaching Laboratory.
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  • An engrossing account of the Norte and Sur girl gangs - the largest Latino gangs in California
  • Traces how elements of speech, bodily practices, and symbolic exchanges are used to signal social affiliation and come together to form youth gang styles
  • Explores the relationship between language and the body: one of the most striking aspects of the tattoos, make-up, and clothing of the gang members
  • Unlike other studies – which focus on violence, fighting and drugs – Mendoza-Denton delves into the commonly-overlooked cultural and linguistic aspects of youth gangs
See More
"Homegirls should rock the very foundations of criminological understandings of gangs, especially concerning female gang members. If scientific rigor increases the book's impact, no one should begrudge Mendoza-Denton the specialization of the latter chapters. In any case, this is a book about much more than language-or perhaps it reveals language to be much more than we think-and it is well worth picking up for an enlightening glimpse of a population that has been ascribed infamy without being known much at al." (American Studies Journal, 1 March 2009)

"Homegirls, an experimental sociolinguistic ethnography of subaltern others, spans a decade of research by a woman who is keen to examine her position as an outsider/insider in the research process and the identity formation of her participants: female gang members.” (American Journal of Sociology, September 2009)

“Part reflexive narrative, part engaging ethnography, part fine-grained sociolinguistic study, and part riveting disquisition on the politics of eyeliner, this delightful book twinkles with wit and blazes with empathy and intelligence.”
Don Kulick, New York University

“Wonderfully written and as riveting as a novel, Homegirls provides a unique window on the linguistic and ethnographic patterns – and their interrelationship – of Northern California Mexican-American high school students who are members of girl gangs. It's sure to become a classic.”
Deborah Tannen, Georgetown University

“Mendoza-Denton provides an extraordinary fusion of ethnographic insight and sociolinguistic analysis. I know of no better demonstration of how linguistic and cultural variables are entwined in social interaction.”
William Labov, University of Pennsylvania

"A landmark work in sociocultural linguistics! The breadth and depth are spectacular and the humanistic presentation makes the description captivatingly accessible to both a professional and a public audience."
Walt Wolfram, North Carolina State University provides a stunning and innovative linguistic, anthro-political ethnography of how gang-affiliated Latina girls talk, dress, and interact. It is certain to become a classic in the fields of sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology.”
Marjorie Goodwin, University of California, Los Angeles

 


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