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Projet UCOc

Understanding the commitment in organized crime in France and USA

(This􏰄 project􏰇 has􏰄 r􏰀eceiv􏰊ed funding f􏰀om the 􏰋􏰀European Union􏰌􏰄 Hor􏰀iz􏰍on 2020 R􏰀es􏰄ea􏰀rch and innovat􏰇ion pr􏰀og􏰀amme u􏰋nder􏰀 g􏰀rant􏰇 ag􏰀reement NUMBEr 752743)

This project is centered around a central question: how does join get involved in organized crime? To answer it, the analysis will focus on the social conditions of the criminal commitment and promotion towards superior spheres. I will use the notion of “criminal career,” increasing and updating the existing knowledge on the steps that allow a social mobility. This problematic implies first to describe and analyze the universe of organized crime, its subdivisions, its hierarchies, its divides, and the structure of its opportunities. Then, it also necessary to put the framework of the biographical trajectories into perspective.

Behind this theme of criminal promotion, we raise more theoretical questions on the interpretative regimes of crime commitment: we postulate that the different positions that the same individual occupies in the criminal world imply different theoretical backings. Only the in-depth study of the biography, the criminal experience, and the judiciary career of the subjects will allow me to isolate and articulate the stages, the states, the different moments, and to understand their motivations and the changes throughout time. The corollary of this questioning on the stages of the criminal careers is the joint study of the social spaces of criminality, understood as places, norms, and actors that structure and animate distinct and hierarchized domains that are sometimes linked to criminality. This is the second innovative aspect of this project: I want to contribute to a cartography of the worlds of crime, of their borders, and their porosities with the more conventional spaces of the social life. This is the reason why I chose the specific question of drug trafficking: by its triple dimension, local, national and international, and with regards to the multiplicity of the tasks and the operators that this trade implies (from production to money laundering, including retail selling), several social spaces of crime are mobilized. The systematic examination of the intersections between delinquents from the lower social strata and those from the dominant groups is another innovative aspect of this research. These worlds of crime are considered as a chain of interdependencies, in other words a phenomenon whose social and possibly racial division remains to be analyzed. By an effect of segmentation, in the penal and/or academic treatment, the different dimensions of organized crime are often separated. 

In a more operational way, I will proceed in three main steps: 

a) I will first examine the political, judicial, and statistical evolutions of organized crime in the US for the recent period (1990 – 2016). To this end, I will analyze the forms of politicization of the theme of crime by relying on the extensive existing literature on the topic. I will look at the way organized crime and drug trafficking have been constructed as “public problems,” then I will examine all the reactions of the different operators in charge of the prevention and repression of organized crime and drug trafficking in particular.

b) Secondly, I will study the evolution of the profile of drug trafficking operators in New York City, and more widely in the US. Regarding the national level, the analysis will rest upon penal statistics (police, justice and prison system). At the local level, I will only use the judicial data about individuals who have been convicted for drug trafficking.

c) Finally, the last and mainly described phase in the precedent parts of the project deals with the ethnographic inquiry. This third part, the true cornerstone of this project, will begin with in-depth interviews in prisons and in organizations in charge of the rehabilitation of recently released inmates, and then – based on the relationships developed with the subjects – in their life and sociability spaces. I will thus use the same methodological device that we are currently applying in France. 


[1] Mohammed M. 2011. La formation des bandes. Entre la famille, l’école et la rue. Paris, PUF.

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