This article examines the ways that Danish gang exit programs engage police officers and gang defectors in a pervasive work on belonging between gangs, kinship networks and the state. In urban Denmark, the majority of gang exit candidates are of ethnic minority background and form part of the street gang environment in marginalized migrant neighborhoods. This is an intimate social environment constituted by diasporic kinship networks, where gang formations are entangled with kinship formations. Hence, when gang defectors leave their gang, they also often leave their family and childhood home for a life in unfamiliar places and positions. As I will show, gang desistance is thus a highly dilemmatic process in which gang defectors find themselves ‘unhinged’ (Guenther 2013) from meaningful social and kinship relationships and in search of new ways of embedding themselves into a social world. Based on an ethnographic study of gang exit processes in Denmark’s second largest city, Aarhus, this article shows how police officers and gang defectors seek to (re)shape ties of belonging between gangs, kinship networks and the state. The process, I argue, illuminates the intimate aspect of the notion of belonging, in which kin and state relatedness is deeply rooted in interpersonal spaces and relationships.
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Financed byDanmarks Frie Forskningsfond