Cross-Cultural Comparison of the Code of the Street

  • Simon Howell
  • Sebastian Kurtenbach
  • Abdul Rauf
  • Muhammad Zaman
  • Steffen Zdun
Open Access


This is one of the core chapters of this book. After describing the national peculiarities, the main findings are presented and cross-culturally compared and reflected in the context of the street code. The aspects, social space/neighborhood, street etiquette, symbols, toughness/masculinity, friends, respect, enemies, and violent perception are addressed. The goal of this approach is not just a documentation of the main findings but also a stepwise comparison of these topics in the three countries. This allows for presenting a wide range of various aspects, but also a description and discussion of similarities.


Cross-cultural comparison Youth violence Code of the street Urban sociology 

9.1 Introduction into the Discussion About Findings of the Cross-Cultural Comparison

The core of the study is the cross-cultural comparison of youth violence, guided by the theoretical framework of the code of the street. As the reports of the single countries showed, the level of violence differs significantly among the cases. It is questionable if the code operates in a general way, as Anderson claims. However, it is not our purpose to reject the concept of the code, but to determine if it is a global concept, or limited more to a specific kind of neighborhood in the US, or that only a few elements are applicable at the global level, and if so, what to consider for developing a more general approach. Therefore, we compare our data only regarding the core dimension of the code of the street. Similarities and dissimilarities are uncovered and analyzed through the results per code element and country. This is the empirical heart of the entire study.

The analysis is based on a close reading of the book Code of the Street by Anderson (1999). The core elements of the street code have been extracted from the book, these being: neighborhood perception, street wisdom, respect, enemy, toughness/masculinity, interpretation of symbols, friends, and perception of violence. Once isolated, we translated these elements into guidelines for interviews with male juveniles between 16 and 21 years and conducted 30 qualitative interviews in risky neighborhoods in each of the three comparative countries, being, Germany, South Africa, and Pakistan. Analysis of these interviews enabled us to compare the core elements of the code of the street in these disparate countries.

9.2 Comparison of the Core Elements of the Code of the Street

To facilitate this, first, we aim to compare the data from the three countries with the original codes as suggested by Anderson himself and deconstructed in Chap.  3. Our intention is not to disprove or criticize these elements, but rather to explore whether they have applicability—and if so, to what extent—in contexts that are both geographically, demographically, and socioeconomically very different to those of Anderson’s original study. Derivative of this, second, we also compare the data sets deduced from each of the three countries with one another, to highlight the similarities and differences that were found. By contextually embedding these data using the structure of the original elements of the street code, we critically engage with the literature and with the data to posit how the different violence-related norms have gained currency and legitimacy in the three contexts under focus. With this in mind, this chapter is primarily structured using the codes themselves, with each country’s data then presented under each code, before a comparative analysis is extracted from these.

The analysis is structured in three parts. The first analyses the perception of the spatial framework. Therefore, the element “Social Space/Neighborhood” is discussed in detail. The second step is the analysis of the moderating elements, street wisdom, interpretation of symbols, toughness/masculinity, friends, enemy, and respect. The third section places the outcome of the street code, being the element “perception of violence” directly under the spotlight.

9.3 Perception of Risky Neighborhoods

9.3.1 Comparison of Social Space/Neighborhoods

In all the sites, the perception of the neighborhood in which the participants were living was a dominant theme that quickly emerged from the interviews. Such perceptions were understood internally and externally—the former a perception of who individuals were by virtue of being residents in a particular area, the latter relating to the perceptions the interviewees thought outsiders had of them as a result of being residents of these areas. For instance, the young men mentioned that the image of neighborhoods is represented in the media, including newspaper and social media, as well as colloquially as “risky neighborhoods.” Such perceptions both stigmatized residents and undermined their ability to engage with the larger socioeconomic dimensions of the city—such stigma, for instance, could prevent them from being considered for an employment opportunity simply because of the area in which they resided. In a similar fashion, Anderson (1999: 161) cited the findings of Sherman et al. (1989) that people from “bad” neighborhoods tend to mix socially with others from equally “bad” places. Talking about the stigmas attached to them by outsiders, the young men mentioned that they had to face discrimination outside their neighborhoods simply because of where they lived. The findings of the study revealed that neighborhood processes influence the beliefs and perceptions of adolescents. In the interviews, the respondents reported many neighborhood processes, including for instance, unlawfulness and delinquency in areas they live. Interestingly, regardless of the high crime rates and the media’s perceptions and images, young men have expressed a feeling of belonging to their neighborhoods, and in contrast that outsiders and the media paint a negative image of the neighborhoods. Respondents from Germany repeatedly acknowledged the ethnic diversity in their neighborhoods. Although, some respondents mentioned “other” ethnic groups involved in crime and drug dealing in the neighborhoods.

  • Germany

One common theme about neighborhoods is narrations of social cohesion and personal affiliation, built and articulated from a position that fundamentally invokes the space in which they live as a symbolic metaphor for the social position from which they speak.

We are well educated. Well, [you] see here everyone, we are Turkish, Arabs, let say Bulgarians, Gypsies, we live together here. […] We don’t have money, we try to earn money by working. […] I would never move from here. (Duisburg-Marxloh 5)

In Neukoelln Kreuzberg I have a lot of friends with whom I am good. Mostly, I don’t have good relations with guys from outside [of Neukoelln]. (Berlin-Neukoelln 1)

The definitional borders of such symbolic and physical spaces are the product of the active construction by participants, both through discursive and physical actions. Through the use of personal pronouns, the participants include other people from their neighborhood as part of the collective. However, this behavior excludes other groups, thus cementing the boundaries between the two. For instance, “new” immigrant groups were excluded thus:

(Now) there are Arabs who say, ah, I am ashamed of the Arabs. […] For me they are gypsy Lebanese. They are filthy, they do criminal acts, there are good and bad Lebanese like good Albanians and bad Albanians. (Duisburg-Marxloh 6)

[…] and now Bulgarian and Romanian are also in here. For example, they broke into our garden and stole some stuff. So, there is a corner full of these people where the streets stink of urine. […] For me it’s ok but I can imagine, I would never go there as woman or someone […] without confidence. (Duisburg-Marxloh 9)

The danger of the neighborhood may thus be tangible, in that it may have very high levels of violent crime, however, the respondents also used the neighborhood’s symbolic reputation as a means of augmenting their own individual identities. Personal protection through the carrying of weapons was, for instance, thus a physical requirement, but also itself a symbol of identity. Thus, being “street wise” and knowing which areas to avoid at what time is used to forestall confrontations (Anderson 1990). With specific reference to weapons in the German sample, it should, however, be noted that while many of the respondents carried weapons, none had actually used them and even admitted to not having a more detailed knowledge of how to. As such, weapons are more a foil for an external show of force, which should provide safety under the spatial circumstances of disorder. Moreover, although crime is partly perceived as rather widespread in the neighborhood, “established” juveniles are not afraid of others due to their own reputation or that of relatives/friends (i.e., they are known).

When you know somebody or when you made you a name yourself. […] When the people know you, nobody attacks you. (Duisburg-Marxloh 3)

In my case they all know me here in Wedding. […] They know my brothers and they respect my brothers. That’s why they don’t do anything to me. (Berlin-Wedding 4)

Meanwhile, others claim that their neighborhoods are in general rather safe or at least not more dangerous than less notorious neighborhoods in other cities.

I find they all exaggerate it. Because, as I said what happens in Marxloh, happens in Duesseldorf and Oberhausen, happens everywhere. […] I think, I stay with my opinion that all people that are not from Marxloh speak bad about my district. My opinion. […] For instance, once I was interviewed by RTL [TV channel]. They told me to speak about Marxloh. They were shocked as I said only positive things, so that they even didn’t transmit it. […] My mother can go out at three o’clock in the night, well three o’clock in the morning, and nothing would happen to her, because everyone knows everyone. […] Well, I am honest, I have never heard a rape here. That’s really the worst thing for me. Rape is the worst. […] I can only talk really positively about my city. (Duisburg-Marxloh 7)

However, not all youths deal in such a solemn way with external prejudice. They are aware of the negative image of their neighborhood and thus avoid mentioning their residence to outsiders and/perceive their own marginalization and stigmatization in particularly pertinent ways, both of which serve to reinforce the physical and normative isolation that the participants may feel in the city at large.

For instance, when I chat with her, I don’t tell that [I am from Marxloh], because the other girls are afraid of coming here. Girls are scared to come here. They are scared to enter Marxloh. They think all people from Marxloh are criminal. (Duisburg-Marxloh 1)

Altogether, there are two approaches of living in a risky neighborhood. One is a rather stoic affirmation of positive aspects and of having found a way of coping with problems. Others are fed up with the local situation and just want to leave.

I grew up here and I would not recommend to [live] here. Well, Neukoelln is also beautiful but for me I would not be here with my future family. (Berlin-Neukoelln 4)

Neukoelln is shit, yes. I’d like to get out of here if I could. So, I was just, until my siblings have everything, their degrees. Then I would like to get out of Neukoelln and [move] to a quiet area. Also, you see yourself, only burglaries and this and that. I am concerned about my siblings. (Berlin-Neukoelln 7)

I said to my mother, we should move certainly move out from here, because we cannot bring up my siblings like this. […] I was bringing my little brother home from kindergarten, then I have seen a woman injecting heroin. […] In such an environment, it is scum here. […] That is why we must leave by all means. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 7)

  • Pakistan

The data of the Pakistani neighborhoods is limited to two cities, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, as mentioned in Chap.  7. Both cities and their neighborhoods are emblematic of the way in which they reflect the composition of both cities’ physical and ethnoreligious composition. These neighborhoods are perceived as marginalized, vulnerable, of primarily housing people of low socioeconomic background and with significant levels of social and ethnic diversity. They are also perceived as criminal areas, illegal drugs’ markets and with low or limited social and economic engagement. Like Anderson’s Code of the Street , these areas are also perceived as a place where everyone can buy drugs like cannabis, heroin, and alcohol and they are understood to be easily purchasable. Some of the respondents reported that these neighborhoods are the center of every kind of deviancy. Interestingly, the interviewees felt alienated from this neighborhood, which is different from the German data in which our subjects felt a sense of belonging. When the one interview partner was asked a question about his neighborhood, he replied:

I tell you the truth, I personally don’t like this place, because here you will confront with every illegal activity, from use of drugs and wine to sexual harassment of girls and especially transgender. Youngsters here of my age, do not go to school neither do they do any job, spend the whole day in these activities. Following girls in the street, spending the whole day while talking to their girlfriends on phone, use of drugs [remark: cigarette and marijuana] is also very much common among these guys. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 28)

This was not the only respondent who perceived these neighborhoods as risky and marginalized. Another respondent has also a somewhat similar understanding of his neighborhood. For him, deviancy and violence are an integral component of these neighborhoods. He also mentioned ethnic diversity and words for his friends:

Some of my friends are very violent, means they start fighting on very minor issue, few are very decent, and they mostly avoid making any trouble with anyone. Most of my friends are my age fellows, few are younger, and few are older than me. In our neighborhood people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds are living but majority of residents are either Punjabi or Pashtun. Kashmiri, Saraiki and Gilgiti people are also in a prominent number. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)

Another male juvenile mentioned the diversity in the urban neighborhoods. Meanwhile, he also claimed that some adults there are violent as well. He notes:

There is a large number of youths in these colonies. Those you can see over here are all the youth of our colony [remark: Bri Imam]. The youth are of different ethnicities permanently settling here at Bri Imam. Some are from Punjab and some are Pathans. Along with them there are also Gilgiti [remark: people of Gilgit] residing in this area of Bri Imam. Not everyone but many of them are gunday [remark; fighter/violent]. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 24)

When the researcher asked the respondent about the role of the law enforcement agencies or family control over deviant persons in the neighborhoods, the respondents had limited confidence in the role and abilities of the law enforcement agencies that regularly policed the neighborhoods. However, they trusted family controls, but mentioned that these youngsters hide their activities from their families. A respondent revealed:

They usually keep their deviant activities away from police. The families are not even aware about such deviant activities. We present ourselves differently in front of police. They think that we are not involved in deviant activities. For example, the police are not aware about the sexual relationship between a boy and a girl. Such deviant activities are not performed publicly rather they are performed covertly. Certain people are influential, and they have good terms with the police. They are able to suppress the deviant issues once they are caught by the police. They are backed by different people. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 23)

The question arises, if there is violence and low social control, why do people live there? In the Bari Imam shrine neighborhood specifically, the people have a spiritual attachment to the shrine and prefer to live close to it. Other places are peopled for different reasons. Housing and the cost of living (food) is affordable there. Family connections and ethnic relations are other reasons that bind them to a neighborhood. A male interviewee shared his experience of living in one of the neighborhoods and mentioned his experiences of girls, family honor and his own contextual definition of respect for women. He also highlighted the role of the security personnel and experience of them. He states:

Here I come for my friends. Since I like the environment, I enjoy being here. It is the only place where one can enjoy, you know, girls come here so I gaze at them. Though none is owed and came across many girls. Since I know nowadays people’s priority is money and thank God I have not been after girls. I have spent a lot of time here at Bri Imam but in my entire life I have never done anything humiliating especially towards women. Once I did something wrong by bullying a girl, supplied her for money, but such activities are not fun and secondly such acts are disgracing [remark: disrespectful] for parents and entire family and on the other hand such things result in imprisonment. That is why I stay away from such things. So, it is better to sit and gaze rather than getting involved in anything against law. Although staring and teasing is fun but nowadays we can’t even tease girls because under cover personnel [remark: security agencies] are always on duty here and they arrest people found teasing girls or doing anything wrong. Last time they caught one of our friends. When a friend took away another friend’s cap and ran inside shrine of Bari. The other friend got angry and shouted at the one ran with the cap and was caught by security force. He was beaten. Another friend of mine got stuck inside but somehow, we managed to escape from there. So even now we come here with same fear in mind that the security personnel now know us, and we may be caught again. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 29)

Another participant also shared his experiences and views about the neighborhood. For him, security forces keep an eye on them and they have to face a number of security checks. They mentioned the notorious reputation of their neighborhood as a facet of living there:

Yes, they’re used a lot over here, as I said most of the boys are unemployed, and they have nothing better to do. Whenever we go to other parts of Islamabad or Rawalpindi, on the checkpoints the police ask us where we are coming from and when they come to know we are from this place, they thoroughly check us for drugs and other illegal substances. This is how we are known to the people and this is all because of the illegal activities going on in these slums. (Islamabad-France Colony 17)

The urban neighborhoods that were focused on in Islamabad and Rawalpindi have a poor reputation, which symbolically marks the residents in complex ways. They are considered as places of dangerous people. We noticed that there were several types of people living in those neighborhoods. Those who were natives and are unable to move to another place due to financial constraints, poverty, and unemployment. Ethnically diverse people settled in those urban neighborhoods or those who are in search of a place which is most economical and affordable. They prefer to live in these neighborhoods without considering inadequate housing or social facilities.

The neighborhoods we targeted in Pakistan were indeed risky neighborhoods with a reputation for violence, criminal behavior and an admission that deviant and normatively repugnant behavior, such as substance abuse, sexual harassment, and prostitution is ubiquitous in these neighborhoods. This engendered stigmatization by outsider citizens. Moreover, police surveillance of the areas is constant but not appreciated. Despite these factors, poverty, unemployment, low levels of education and urban migration constrain many who live there from leaving these neighborhoods, since these neglected neighborhoods are economically affordable. Some interviewees expressed the wish to be able to leave the neighborhood, while others admitted a sense of belonging—a space that afforded young people an opportunity to interact, relax, and manage their street presence.

  • South Africa

Social space was found to be extremely important in South African cities. This is to be expected, considering that the political constructs of the past have remained architecturally imprinted on them. As highlighted in the specific chapter, South Africa is both constructed upon, and fractured by, perceived differences constituted by a moral framework embodied through racial differences. Such differences exist because people were ultimately formulated in relation to both the production of and access to capital, as reflected economically. Such structures have come to define the physical spaces of South African cities, both in relation to their physicality and their symbolic use as part of narratives which allow access to capital, as a function of the mythologization of the ascendency of democracy and the seemingly intricate involvement of most of the population’s families. As one participant noted for instance:

Yes, I am from Johannesburg, but I was never raised there because they shot my grandfather who was the first guy that brought power along with all these guys […] He was even giving private information about family business, who it involved, named a few people within the government sector who were involved etc. (Durban-KwaMashu 8)

This is of course not to say that there is a causal relationship between the two, but rather that significant correlations continue to exist and which impact on young people. Indeed, this impact is especially keen amongst young men, who are positioned qua masculinity as nascent providers and yet exist in marginal communities in which access to the capital necessary in order to become an idealized provider is not only distant economically, but geographically as well. The result, it seems, is the refraction of their focus inwards, so that the minutiae of differences between individuals become magnified, becoming the basis for conflict and violence. Gangs offer a convenient channel for the expression of this process, as they are in South Africa especially concerned with territory both as a field from which income can be garnered through protection rackets and the sale of illegal drugs but also as a symbolic field of possession which acts as a tangible expression of group identity. Such identities may be multiple and replaceable, as expressed by one participant:

The communities they live in or the friends that they have most of the time, because if their friends are gangsters, I guess they won’t be as close to their friend as they would like to be. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 14)

Such differences are also couched in moral terms, so as that it is not simply the space itself that is used in the construction of an identity or group locale, but a moral one too. This is perhaps best expressed by one of the participants themselves when they noted that:

No, we’re a “pure” bunch I guess. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 10)

The simplicity of the sentence belies the complexity of the social configurations which underpin it. There conceptualization of purity as morally superior is a function of the group identity narrated as being a “bunch”. Such imagined purity and thus superiority provide a justificatory rhetorical strategy for the claims of superiority required in constructions of young masculinity. Intriguingly, however, such claims are themselves a product of and rely on the existence of the group in order to be understood as legitimate. Thus, when those groups disband, or an individual is expelled from a group, it is not simply that they are cast out of a group of people but in the process become seen as inferior and as morally inferior. As another participant noted:

For the past few years, there is a lot of people that come then they leave and that has affected my area because it gets quiet since them […] Because basically my area is only alive or very loudly depending on how much people there is, but for the past few years it’s been very quiet. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 14)

Quiet, here, is thus a loaded term, not merely indicating that less of the in-group has remained in the area, but that the state of quietness is indicative of floundering and moral regress. In the South African context, such configurations are also given cultural weight through and because of the notion of ubuntu which loosely translates as “we are because they are”. As an ontological framework then, and despite many young men expressing an alienation from their traditional religious and cultural practices, and implicit and engrained understanding of ubuntu narrates their daily social configurations. Conflicts and violence as a result of or in contestation of social spaces draw on far deeper ontological meaning than simply the enactment of symbolic forms of power, for it is not simply that such violence is an event, but a process in which expression carries with it moral weight, and in which the victim not only garners power in terms of territory but acquires a deeply embedded and perhaps even implicit cultural capital. This can be seen in the amaVuras and amaVatos gangs, who engage in symbolic acts of extreme violence through conflicts with one another. They only use knives in these fights, where they believe that the distance achievable with firearms is not what “real” men do. Moreover, when they leave the communities to attend initiation school, they seldom return to the gangs, as they feel that gangsterism is “boys stuff”. By attending initiation, they become men, imbued with a social place and purpose that precludes “boys stuff”. The framing of the city as the “modern” and the rural as the site of the “traditional” is further magnified and made tangible in South Africa as a result of the very high levels of urban migration, in which “home” becomes conceptualized as the place from which individuals may have come from while the city space is conceptualized as foreign and less valuable. This lack of symbolic legitimacy both creates the space for the transfiguration of identities while also legitimates the criminality and the use of violence. As one participant noted, they invoked the love of their parents and their guidance by going “home”, implicitly acknowledging the city as a secondary and transient space:

A friend is important so much let me make an example like how I brought myself to you and my parents are back home I talk to you about whatever is not making me happy and you as a friend will then comfort me and give me answers as to how I can solve the problem I am having and they help come up with a solution as to what we can do to solve the problem. (Durban-KwaMashu 6)

The cultural implications of this are of course themselves important, but so too are the remedial lessons, for it shows that interventions can both utilize but must also be aware of these deep-seated ontological nuances.

Similarities: In all contexts, the neighborhood has been perceived as providing the stage upon which personal identities could be performed, and yet also informed how those performances were both enacted and understood by the wider audience, the city. The social space is a place of belonging, where the juveniles feel at home or which was remembered for the lack of opportunities in life. Independent from the reputation and rating of the neighborhood, it is seen as an important social unit; juveniles cope with and become violent as one coping strategy. Anderson claims that there are two types of people: “decent” and “street”, with the possibility of code switching. However, the struggles of the juveniles who shape their identity in relation to their social environment points in the direction of a more complex process; how to “get by” in a risky neighborhood. This is important, because in all the contexts, those risky neighborhoods were perceived as dangerous and a personal threat. The ambivalence between home and threat, or from a more distanced view, between protection and danger, is a challenge for the juveniles, possibly creating conflicts at both a personal level and between individuals.

Differences: The exact personal position toward the neighborhood differs between the contexts. In the Pakistani case, the neighborhoods were rejected and poorly rated, which was not true for Germany and South Africa. At the same time, some claim that their neighborhood is a place to relax and feel comfortable. An explanation could be the strong family bonds in the traditional Islamic households, which are in an opposition toward a normless and risky social environment. However, in Pakistan , the neighborhoods were mentioned as an economic source conforming to legal norms. There, people earn money for the household income by trading or through construction services. In Germany, those aspects were mentioned only in one interview—in Berlin, and in South Africa, many of the participants garnered an income in these neighborhoods through criminal activity, such as drug dealing.

9.3.2 Reflections on the Findings About the Perception of Risky Neighborhoods

In Chap.  2, we discussed the spatial framework of risky neighborhoods more in detail. One part of the discussion was about the spatial threat approach, which binds together a bunch of different studies, which show that individuals perceive their neighborhoods as a threat. Even this is observable in our cross-cultural comparison. The juveniles interpret their neighborhoods, which means a social but also a normative spatial framework, as a source of danger, to which they have to react with violent behavior. Even this finding is stable over very different contexts, but how they react—what the shape of the street code looks like—will be discussed in the following section. The relational starting points are close to being similar across all the contexts and with the findings of Anderson, as well as with the Germantown neighborhood in the 1990s in the US context.

9.4 The Shape of the Code of the Street in Cross-Cultural Comparison

9.4.1 Comparison of Street Etiquette

Street etiquette includes street knowledge and a code of conduct for youth in the risky neighborhoods (Anderson 1990). Anderson (1999: 64) describes the knowledge as a defensive strategy of young men to stay safe on the street. In inner city neighborhoods, streetwise families encourage their children to acquire street knowledge while decent families try to keep their children away from the street. However, decent families’ children acquired knowledge of street etiquette through street socialization and social shuffling when they socialize with their peers in school and playgrounds. Adolescents of decent families also learn knowledge of code switching to present another self at home. Anderson (1999: 69) further argues that street etiquettes, as normative systems, are embedded in street codes and streetwise young men are well aware of the danger and how to prevent confrontation. It is a fundamental rule of the street code that street activities should only take place in the neighborhood and nowhere else and the street code outlines the role of perpetrator and victim in the street confrontation. In our study, young men also acknowledged that street knowledge determines vulnerability and protection on the street. The participants described that individuals with little confidence and street knowledge are vulnerable to predation. Young men with the street knowledge can read the situation and behave accordingly. So, street knowledge provides disadvantages for those who lack this knowledge. It incorporates the information about the street code, the police, and the neighborhood (Anderson 1999: 67). Young participants also revealed the prevalence of a tenet to settle the matter in the neighborhood. For example, young men reportedly mentioned a “one-on-one rule” to resolve the dispute among groups, according to which only two people engage in a fight without interference or assistance from others.

  • Germany

There is a strong belief among adolescents that street etiquette is crucial for “survival” on the street. Adolescents who have grown up in these neighborhoods are well aware of street conduct. The prevalence of violence and street activities train them how to behave in particular situations. As one respondent noted:

I keep my eyes open, for me the street is my life. […] because I am seventeen years on the street, sixteen years I was on the street […] for me the street means a lot to me, it taught me a lot. […] and I have self-confidence. I protect myself without a weapon, without anything. I just have self-confidence. […] even if two people approach me or so […] or three people. I run away. If two come, anyway I would not try to box with, I would try to get away from them, maybe, they have a gun in hand, maybe they have something in the hand. How shall I know? (Dortmund-Nordstadt 8)

In street conduct, self-confidence is instrumental for survival. Adolescents accumulate street knowledge from everyday life within their neighborhoods and street etiquettes provide them with the confidence to conduct themselves on the street and in escalated situations:

If you are living long enough in Marxloh, you know where the corners are, where you are not allowed to go. […] Because, I know the place quite well. The corners, what is going on here, the hideaways, what exists here. (Duisburg-Marxloh 5)

Another important theme that emerged from an analysis of the street etiquette was how to behave in an intensified situation and how and when to challenge your enemy. There are a set of informal rules according to which one’s honor and reputation within those particular neighborhoods are maintained and when necessary, restored. In the German data, the rule for youths is to exhibit toughness through one-on-one contestation and challenging each other is a prominent rule. If there is a conflict between two persons from different groups, a fight between those two persons, but only those two persons, is inevitable, even in the presence of friends. The parties have to stand their ground to show their resilience in dealing with the situation. If this rule is broken and others enter the fray, this will result in a group fight. A young man from Marxloh described the events:

If you see, one-on-one, nobody goes on, let them to fight. Except the situation is exaggerated, we part them. But otherwise we don’t interfere together. Unless you see four against one, then you go on with others, then it’s a mass brawl. (Duisburg-Marxloh 6)

The narratives depicted that young men have to rely on their self-defense capabilities in the neighborhoods. Although most of the young people hang around with their friends and in groups on the street, contests are expected in the form of one-on-one confrontations. The young men from Nordstadt reported that it is important for a person to handle the situation alone:

No, definitely one-on-one. No, no, it is definitely very sneaky if more than one goes against one, one-on-one in any case. So definitely one against one, then I say, first pushing, or so, I would say, then it comes smacking then notice, then I see, if he reacts to it, if he notices: Okay, now I respect this person and I simply go out of his way, or if I, or if he tries to beat back then. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 10)

A situation, namely I was once in the city with two other colleagues, then two others came, I mean who I know as well and […] he became more and more cheeky and at some point I was fed up, he got some on his head. (Interviewer: But was that one-on-one or did a fellow join?) Yes, no, nobody joined. So, it was only me and him. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 9)

The above excerpts reflect the dynamics of informal social control in the neighborhood and a lack of willingness to intervene in confrontations. One aspect of this rule, as the young men above described it, is that one-on-one confrontations are a manifestation of manhood—a contest to see if you can successfully defend yourself.

  • Pakistan

Street etiquette is clearly known among young people. They believe that they are in a risky place and they have to defend themselves if anything happens to them. They are constantly aware of what happens on the streets of their neighborhood through intense vigilance. For instance, one of the respondents mentioned that some deviant youth from other parts of the city came to the Bari Imam neighborhood, where they teased the girls of the neighborhood. Consequently, elders of the street decided to form a mohala (street) committee in order to defend their neighborhood girls. Protecting the honor and respect of the girls and women in their neighborhood sat deep in the consciousness of these adolescents. Although friendship between the sexes is forbidden by local norms, it is interesting to note that friends always treat their friend’s sister as if their own sister. If any member of the group violates this rule, he is punished. A respondent revealed his experience:

Often the youngsters fight. Once we had one in our school, which was fought on behalf of our friend, Yousaf was also with us in that fight. One of our friends was going to school, on the way few guys surrounded him, they were blaming our friend for teasing one of boys’ sister. We know our friend very well he is a very gentle and nice guy and we were sure he would never do any act like this. Our friend was alone at that time, the guys took advantage of it and they beat up our friend very badly. Our friend got three stitches in the head. When we came to know about these happenings we gathered our friends and went after those guys after the school time, towards the colony. We knew they would be in the cricket ground where we often used to play after school time. We captured three of them and gave them beating of their life which they will never forget. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 28)

The above respondent further added that ignoring street etiquettes would brand a person as shameless. The violation of street etiquettes demanded a show of aggression:

If I tell you about my nature, I mostly avoid involvement in conflicts but sometimes I have to react and fight, because in our neighborhood if I always keep tolerating the aggression of other fellows so they will start considering me a shameless person and an easy target, as they did with my friend as well. But luckily after having some very intense fights now most of the guys in my neighborhood avoid making any trouble with me. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 28)

Another respondent also highlighted street etiquette at sporting events. For the respondent, it was clear that nobody is allowed to interfere with a cricket umpire He reported:

Just a few days ago we had a fight while playing cricket. When we were playing the match, a boy who was not playing the match started interfering in the umpire decisions which resulted in a fight among both the playing teams. That boy was then beaten by both of the teams. Besides that, incident, I have never had any serious fight like the other people here who have made various groups like Malangii and who have nothing better to do than teasing girls, quarrelling and taking drugs the whole day. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 2)

From the Pakistani data, it is evident that street etiquettes exist. However, the nature and intent of the street etiquettes vary from the German data.

  • South Africa

Street etiquette was for many South African participants subtly performed through an arrangement of verbal, nonverbal, symbolic, and embedded performances that drew on a myriad of references to both traditional, contemporary and individual characteristics. Such performances may in themselves be contradictory, but, when interpreted by the peer group for whom those actions were performed, are layered with meaning. For instance, one participant noted that:

One of my philosophies is that life is like a river so let it flow so that is how I solve like my problems, like okay let’s see how it is going to happen like this then I try it in a different way cause now I know a way to do it, that’s how I solve my problems I just keep changing it and trying it in different ways then I did in the first time it did not work, I try to come up with different method to the situation I am in at that time. Do not do one thing for everything. (Durban-KwaMashu 9)

Another means of expressing this code was through descriptions that also invoked other codes. For instance, one participant noted, in describing their understanding of an enemy, that:

I don’t keep grudges if someone hurts me I don’t pay too much attention to them, it is cool you do you I do me, so carry on doing what you doing if it makes you happy what you doing then to me something that makes me happy, if it makes you happy then you carry on doing it I am just not going to chill with you then we cut ties, those people are not my enemies they just not friends. (Durban-KwaMashu 9)

Such implicit understandings can, however, also result in the normalization of violence and personal violence, so that these concerns are referred to in a flippant or uncaring manner. As one participant inadvertently noted when speaking of a friend’s addiction:

Like you don’t understand addictions it’s like when I meet someone I believe everyone has an addiction and when I meet someone I want to find out like what is your addiction is it could be helping people it could be whatever Sbu’s is caffeine and I think he has that addiction because he understands that so I just let him be. (Durban-KwaMashu 8)

Street codes were then for South African participants very fluid and often, the result of colloquial understandings of the context in which they found themselves, both individually and as groups of friends, and thus likely to change quite rapidly. Such rapidity had the effect, on the one hand, of negating what may be considerably serious concerns for individuals, yet also allowed participants to rapidly adapt to a changing urban context with high levels of crime, violence, and personal grief. In summary, one participant noted:

Perhaps my age group respects me. I am not sure about the old people. But my age group respects me because I also respect them. It is difficult for me to see or know whether older people respect me because I don’t spend a lot of time with them. I spend a lot of time with people who are my age group when we chill on the road and in our corners. You can really see that they are happy with my style. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 5)

Similarities: In all of the contexts and sites, specific rules were developed on how to behave on the street. The expectation is that if one follows these rules it guarantees the ability to keep out of trouble, while simultaneously making it possible to participate in the public life of the street. Following those informal rules provides safety, but causes problems for those who do not know the codes or reject them. However, these rules cause problems as well, because adherence to the rules rest with the juveniles themselves, hence the possibility of violence and dangerous situations.

Differences: Even if street etiquette works to keep the peace, differences are observable when it comes to violence. In Germany and Pakistan, clear rules on how to behave in violent situations are developed (e.g., one-on-one fighting only, or not using a weapon). In South Africa, instead, no such rules were operational in violent situations, with the need to overcome the opponent often the sole concern. Such a concern is symptomatic of the type of weaponry used—in which the difference between victory and defeat may also be the difference between life and death—and as noted throughout this chapter, because violence is so deeply embedded in individuals’ understandings that its use is not seen as strange or extra normal. So, the range of the informal rules is related to the local culture and circumstances. Even this finding is opposite to Anderson’s findings in the US.

9.4.2 Comparison of Symbols

In line with Anderson’s understanding of street culture, symbols, and in particular material objects that are understood symbolically, are considered significant to show power and reputation on the street. In risky neighborhoods, many of the youth carried small weapons including knives, tasers, and knuckle-dusters to protect themselves, so they said. Many of the respondents also noted that the carrying of a weapon was a potent means of articulating and performing their manhood and dominance on the street. Other material stuff included expensive brand clothes and shoes to attract attention on the street. Some of the participants acknowledged they used to give importance to expensive brands in the early teenage years, but these things later became irrelevant. Generally, most interviewees reported that expensive clothes and shoes are not related to respect on the street. Anderson (1999: 76) described that young men carry a beeper to sell drugs in the neighborhood, which become a status symbol of wealth, courage and drugs. In competitive environments, young men campaign for status by taking the possessions of others, which symbolizes winning a trophy. It includes material things like sneakers and pistols; even girlfriends can be trophies. Leather jackets, expensive sneakers, and other branded goods are considered important symbols of status and prop up the self-image of these youths. In the neighborhood, the peer group sets the standards for conduct and young men look for sex encounters to accumulate esteem among peers, each sex conquest regarded as a notch on one’s belt (Anderson 1999: 150).

  • Germany

The staging area is an important self-representation space where adolescents not only challenge each other’s social status, but also attempt to manifest their supremacy through street symbols. However, only a few adolescents believe that branded clothes, watches and gold chains are associated with respect within neighborhoods. A young interviewee said:

Of course, there are some. There are many, that buy all that brands that are expensive, and you think oh cool, such as Ralph Lauren, Hilfiger, Versace, Prada, like this, Gucci. Like this, if someone has something original, he is immediately the boss, directly a highly respected person. (Scharnhorst 3)

However, that branded clothes are linked to respect holds true only for friends and is more associated with wealth as with violence or a specific street related ability. While certain fashion items can be part of a self-representation on the street such as a gangster-style discourse, in contrast to Anderson’s findings, wealth cannot be interpreted as a direct connection to the drug economy, because the drug market in Germany is not that openly organized as it was in Germantown in the 1990s. Furthermore, branded clothes are also a symbol of partial success in the legal economy and as well a sign of possible pathways out of poverty and street culture. Although tattoos are also a manifestation of street life, due to religious reasons the interviewees did not have tattoos. They believed that a tattoo makes their body impure.

No, I would never get any tattoos. First because of my religion. […] Second my father doesn’t want it, because my skin is, so to speak, it is not how God made it and you changed it. (Duisburg-Marxloh 1)

In risky neighborhoods, where there is a high level of perceived insecurity, young interviewees mentioned that they carry small weapons as symbols to protect themselves on the street. Despite not really knowing how to use them, they carry knives, tasers, and knuckle-dusters, but their value is purely symbolic so as to show dominance in street disputes. None of the adolescents reported ever using a weapon in a fight, even if they had one on them. It is more symbolic of the ability to put up a fight, than a tool for using in a fight.

Well, in the past I would have gone out of the way. Today I just walk towards, because, as I said, one should be self-confident. […] you should not retreat immediately, because then the other person sees, ok he is afraid of me, he is already intimidated, is an easy victim. […] When someone wants to pinch stuff from somebody, then he makes it as easy as possible and searches for an easy victim, like it was the case with me. I was thirteen years old, a little child, and a twenty-five-year-old came to me with a knife. So you know, that he is twelve years older than me is already an important advantage and then pulling a knife, that makes it even worse. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 3)

It also levers their status and confidence on the street. Some of the interviewees claimed that they lived up a ghetto lifestyle, it being part of the intimate and local culture of their neighborhoods. However, they were aware of the fact that outsiders consider it as an asocial lifestyle. A young interviewee talking about their lifestyle:

We understand each other. But other people, who come from outside, when they see us, they think immediately, yes they are asocial, look how they dress up. Our style is like this. We dress up like ghetto. (Duisburg-Marxloh 5)

  • Pakistan

Symbols indicate the street norms, values, and beliefs. In the Pakistani data, some symbols that indicate violent tendencies. Though weapon and honor were linked to each other, carrying of weapons was not common prior to the 1980s. But during the Cold War era (1980s and 1990s), gun culture flourished and was promoted. This uncontrolled gun culture continued until 2015, thereafter the state decided to ban guns. Every government-run school and college had a gun culture, where adolescents frequently used weapons to show their manhood, masculinity, and power to their opponent. Violent incidents were very common in schools, colleges, and universities. However, during the anarchic period in which bomb blasts became frequent in the country, the government started campaigns to control guns and other weapons, realizing that government control of weaponry was essential. Nevertheless, weapons still can be found in risky urban neighborhoods despite the fact that security forces have launched massive and offensive campaigns to control violent extremism after the war on terror.
The data indicates that adolescents used knuckle-duster, knives and other weapons (like guns), if needed. Expensive and branded clothes and shoes are not linked with the violence nor serve as specific emblems for group membership. Nonetheless, they may be considered important among some of the adolescents who are part of the well-off social class. Additionally, some of the respondents mentioned that they use special tacit and culturally specific symbols and signs to attract women of their age. In this vein, a respondent reported:

If a girl is to be attracted, we just wink at her while following them. If a girl sees you following her twice or third, she gets that the boy is interested in her. If the girl gazes back, it means that she is also interested in you. Besides this, it is also good to have stylish clothes. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 21)

Another respondent revealed that adolescents used long nails (just like girls) in order to attract the attention of a girl. This is also an indication merely for a friendship. Adolescents also use bracelets, rings and wrist threads:

The long nails are kept for the sake of girls. They usually like long nails, thus it actually symbolizes the love for a girl with whom a boy is in love […] It represents the friendship. As long as it remains at your finger, you are in a strong bond of friendship with that individual. They have been given to me by my friends. Some people wear threads around their wrists and some use bracelets, but I usually like these rings. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 22)

Youngsters also have long hair, and long nails on their smallest fingers, imitating the styles and confidence of local TV and film stars to portray themselves as heroes to the girls. In this regard, a respondent from Islamabad-Bari Imam mentioned:

A boy having a long hair, and a long nail at pinky finger was Jay Kishan (Indian Film actor). He was wearing pant shirt. When I started to talk with him, he was not hesitant, and he started to talk freely. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 23)

Although these adolescents wanted to have a relationship with girls, they considered them prostitutes, using the term “taxi” to describe the girls. The adolescents running after these girls are called “shoohda” (means cheap/low character/heinous person). These boys and girls have illicit relationships, although both know that they will neither marry nor have a long-lasting relationship. Both of them may be interested in a physical relationship or the girl may hope for money in return for the relationship. Some of them may exchange a handkerchief as a symbol of the relationship. As a respondent from Islamabad-Bari Imam stated:

The girls are called Taxi and the boys who do such things are called Shooda […] If a boy establishes a relationship with a girl then the handkerchief is given as a sign of love to her. The handkerchief is when given by the girl to a boy then the boy would it wear around his wrist. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 24)

Meanwhile, the girls wear fashionable clothes (in local cultural contexts) to attract the boys. One respondent expressed this in the following manner:

Some of the boys use the rings and bracelets which are given to them by their girlfriends. One of my friends has three girlfriends. One of them has given a bracelet and a thread to him so he wears them around his wrist. These things are also used to show that the boy has a girlfriend. I have not used such rings and bracelets. […] Girls are more interested in watching television. They are quickly imitating the fashion as you might have observed by yourself. We should not forget our own fashion but currently nobody cares about that. I have seen a girl in this place who was wearing bilkul patla [means: transparent] clothes and her whole body was clearly visible. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 25)

Many of these adolescents wear traditional Pakistani clothes (shalwar and kameez). Some of them wear jeans and shirts (Western clothes) and a few earrings and bracelets. A respondent said:

I often wear shalwar qamees along with waist coat as it is our traditional dress. However, I also do wear jeans and shirts as well. Nowadays most of the guys wear jeans while they are on the street, some of the guys also wear earrings and bracelets. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)

Interestingly, some adolescents wear jeans and shirts, but they also wear ta’wiz—a locket or amulet with the prayers to avoid evils or to attract good fortune. It is also considered necessary to have good fortune to attract a beautiful girl. Conversely, another respondent does not believe in the wearing of a ta’wiz or bracelet as a religious symbol. Views about ta’wiz, bracelets, nails, and dress are depicted in the below narratives:

I mostly wear shalwar qamees [Pakistani dress]. Jeans and shirts along with waist coat are popular among boys these days in the neighborhood. I do wear ta’wiz [phylactery] but I do not wear jewelry such as bracelets or earrings. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 1)

I mostly wear shalwar qamees and when I am on duty, I follow our work place dress code. Using earrings and bracelets for a boy is not allowed by our religion, so I never wear such things. I do wear Sindhi topi [cap] sometimes. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 2)

I also wear earrings and a ‘ta’wiz’ around my neck. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 26)

I often wear jeans and shirts; however, I also do wear shalwar qamees as well. I used to wear earrings few months ago but then my father came to know about that then upon his orders now I don’t wear it anymore. I have this [ta’wiz] given to me by my mother I keep it with myself every time. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 5)

I wear shalwar qamees, sometimes jeans and shirts as well. Most of my friends wear jeans these days; they are impressed from English and Indian movies. I don’t like to wear earrings and bracelet I consider it as girlish things, a man has some traits which suits him and should adopt them rather than adopting girl’s styles and fashion. (Islamabad-France Colony 16)

With reference to the street code, these symbols emanating from the data are mostly related to friendships between girls and boys. However, some do have a violent meaning. For example, a respondent revealed:

They have their own style. As you might have seen that boys have bracelet which are sometime given by the girls. They use them with pride that it has been given by a girl. There are also boys who behave like crazy people. They cut their arms with knife and another sharps thing. If one inquiry about it they will say, it is a sign of love and it also represents their courage. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 13)

We can see from the Pakistani data, that the symbols of the street code have a broader meaning. This is true for gender relation in particular. We can only understand the meanings of such symbols by putting them into the cultural context, which makes clear that the street codes are culturally framed and that they are not a general explanation.

  • South Africa

As has been noted above, many of the codes applicable to other conceptual or pragmatic concerns—friends, enemies, and social space for instance—are themselves also symbolic in form and in the understandings of the participants. This is not only because they represent far more than the physical entities pointed to by the codes, but because they also operate as potent forms of cultural capital. Violence, in this guise, can also be used as cultural capital, whether in its instantiation, in its symbolic use in the form of threats, or as a means of legitimating an individual or act retrospectively through a process of mythologization. Such a process and the legitimacy it sanctioned can be seen in operation in the anecdote provided by one participant, in speaking of Nelson Mandela.

I feel the same Mandela that went in there is not the same Mandela that came out and if you look at how we are as black people now our respect was buried away post 1994 you see because of what they did and they just made a decision to come and kill us slowly the following, but how I see respect is there is respect that people as respect and there is for an example look at Mandela everybody respects Mandela for what. (Durban-KwaMashu 8)

The symbolic capital of violence and the means by which it becomes normalized as a mechanism of change is of course not solely limited to the generation from which the participants were garnered. Indeed, many of the participants have been born into poverty as a result of the violence perpetuated by the state through apartheid and by the conflicts and violence that were driven by these policies. As one participant noted:

Yes, I am from Johannesburg, but I was never raised there because they shot my grandfather who was the first guy that brought power along with all these guys. (Durban-KwaMashu 8)

In the above quote, the participant clearly understands the symbolic capital of the use of violence not only as a means of generating change but as power itself. There are of course more empirical uses of symbols that the participants drew on in their daily lives, most primarily through the use of clothing items as a means of indicating—albeit often inadvertently only imitating—what they believe to be the symbols of wealth. The auspicious display of such overt signs of wealth is fraught with concerns that mirror the wearing of such items in impoverished communities. As one participant noted:

My financial security majority of it relies in I call her my mom but she is my aunt relies in her and my sister and also my brother relies on those guys that’s my financial security, my emotional also relies in my mother but not my brother and sister it basically relies in my friends’ the ones I call family, that’s where my emotional security relies in, if my friends do something really bad to me then I lose respect for them. (Durban-KwaMashu 9)

The conspicuous display of symbolic forms of wealth is, however, subject to the same processes by which the norms relating to violence are produced. On such example relates to the use and ownership of vehicles, a comparatively mundane activity in Germany for instance, but one that is a dream for at least one of the South African participants. As they describe this symbolic capital:

As a man, I wish to see myself driving. Although I know it’s too much for me to mention driving even before education but yes, I would like to drive a big car. So that when I come to the township, everybody looks at me. The shoe that I would be wearing, people would have to see that this guy is successful. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 2)

Lending credence to the propositions above, the interweaving of the codes in nuanced ways is critical in understanding the symbolic capital that many acts and items may have to the participants. The normative discourse in which these dreams are shaped and through which they may be realized is of course through the accumulation of wealth. The primary means by which to do so in the communities from which the participants have been drawn is via the gangs and related to this, the distribution of illegal drugs. As such, the gangs meet the need of a youth torn between the promises of a consumerist society and the stark reality of their continued impoverishment. It is for this reason that the South African Police Service’s Major General Jeremy Veary has stated that the youth are “in awe of gang leaders” (April 1, 2014). Unlike the state, the gangs make plausible offers of belonging, support, safety, status, and wealth. They have filled the void left by ineffective governance and frustrated expectations. One reason for this is that the production and distribution of illegal drugs economically sustain the gangs. As has been shown elsewhere, police “crackdowns” or “blitzes” serve to reduce supply, rather than demand, thus often increasing the street price of a particular drug. The more profitable the trade, the more money and effort will be spent on sustaining that trade. This can be expressed in as simple an item as a pair of jeans, as one participant noted:

Firstly, it means that I am fashionable. I love that. I really do. When I bought it as well with the money that my mother gave me for Christmas, everyone thought that I looked good and they told me. I also saw that this is a hit. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 3)

Finally, and in spite of the draw of material wealth, many participants recognized that there were symbols that revealed a moral wealth and wealth of spirit. As one participant argued, in conclusion:

There is one that I can talk about. You see this one is educated, she is around 39 years or more. But I can say that she is still young. But she is successful. She is highly educated. She has many things in life. Married. She has everything, but she still wants more but personally I can say she is successful. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 12)

Similarities: We find that self-confidence and carrying improvised weapons are symbolic elements of street culture. Results show that context-related symbols, like weapons, are recognized by youth in the neighborhoods. However, in contrast to Anderson’s findings, the symbols are not linked to respect or violence. Though, in all contexts, symbols are a show of force, but more so a flag of the status, they are not linked to respect and violence directly, and do not cause it. But symbols do have an ambiguous meaning. On the one hand, they should trumpet success, as do expensive branded goods or cars. On the other hand, symbols are a part of the local street culture in so far that they show the relative position of the person within the risky neighborhood with its informal rules. Conversely, belonging to street culture signifies failure in the broader society, because of discrimination, and/or because street culture overtly rejects mainstream norms.

Differences: The data clearly manifested that symbols need to be interpreted in relation to context. So, in Germany, symbols address peers and friends and are a sign of status within the groups. This is true for the carrying of weapons, too. Usually, juveniles carry such items, but never used them nor know how to use them. The Pakistani data showed that religious symbolic items are worn, which was not found in the other two contexts. Furthermore, symbols were an offensive tool to gain the attention of women of the same age group, which would otherwise not be possible because of the strict social rules. However, in South Africa, violence by itself becomes a symbol of power, which gains a deeper meaning, keeping the history of apartheid in mind. Based on this, we have to reject the assumption of a simple connection between symbols, respect, and violence, even we see some relation. The field is indeed much more complex.

9.4.3 Comparison of Toughness and Masculinity

Toughness on the street is viewed in two ways by respondents. One outlook on toughness is through the rubric of masculinity, in which a privileged man who is respected by others on the street creates an image of ruthlessness. Manhood is associated with respect on the street and thus is internalized through and symbolically indicated by heightened levels of confidence and high self-esteem. In street culture, attributes such as manhood, a reputation for aggression, and status garnered through wealth and symbols might be achieved through violent conduct in public. On inner city neighborhood streets, young men manifest and utilize overtures toward masculinity in order to both gain access to and heighten their reputation. Manhood is associated with ruthlessness and the inclination to use violence (Anderson 1999: 91). In addition, a man is able to hold his nerve and manhood can also be expressed by the possession of material goods and by entering into relationships with particular women or girls. In inner city neighborhoods, young males perceive a real man to be someone who has street knowledge and who follows the code of the street. A reputation of toughness and hardness safeguards against future victimization. In their campaign for respect, young people are ready to behave violently. From another perspective, toughness is the ability “stand your ground”; where people have a little trust in state institutes, particularly the police, they need to be able to retaliate on their own in response to threats (Anderson 1999: 189). This code legitimates the use of force and provides a rationale for violent behavior. This may be enacted through standing up to institutional or structural forms of authority and violence, such as the explicit antagonism toward the police or other community authority figures, the defiance of the state or the destruction of public property, or the commitment of criminal acts, such as public order violations or the defacement of public buildings.

  • Germany

The idea of social competition is an essential feature of toughness on the streets, meaning an attitude that indicates readiness to react to insults and show strength. Failing means becoming a potential victim of social or physical abuse. As a consequence, showing toughness is a rational double strategy. It prevents victimization at the moment, whilst simultaneously building up a violent reputation, which shall prevent future victimization. The results show that the assumptions about toughness outlined by Anderson are applicable in the German contexts as well.

The weaker has virtually respect for the stronger. That’s how it is on the street. (Duisburg-Marxloh 2)

Well, you should, I may say, you should not somehow show your smile too much on the street, because very often it is ascribed with weakness if you show very much smile. You should always look tough and stay tough, because then you will be seen like this, also taken seriously and also respected. Once you show your smile, then they see it as weakness. Then you have to show toughness again, for example by beating this person. For instance, I personally don’t enjoy it, but everyone is fighting for his reputation, I would say it like this. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 10)

Survival of the fittest is accentuated in the above storylines of young interviewees, which is an imperative rule to maintain on the street. The above excerpts show that toughness is associated with respect and reputation, which also ensures security and safety. Youth described that they engage in fights and brawls to gain honor and they believe it is necessary to avoid any later assault. A young participant from Marxloh narrated what is required to stay safe on the street.

Confrontation and so. We also want to have our pride. That’s about pride, about, we must do something. You cannot just turn around and say ‘not so bad’. (Duisburg-Marxloh 1)

Who is a strong man? (..) Wait. No idea. Definitely not one who is hopped up on steroids or something. This doesn’t count. I don’t know. Maybe when someone shatters and gets up again? No idea. And says, fights on, still defends himself or runs off. No idea. For me this is strong. (Berlin-Neukoelln 7)

Both storylines show the cyclic rhythm of confrontation and struggle to sustain them on the street. It is commonplace that they are challenged by their peers and they must resist to be dominant in the risky neighborhoods. Only a few interviewees claimed strength and toughness could be shown by the opposite means.

Strength has nothing, has not only to do with power, but also strength is also […] Strength is, for instance, if you can give respect to one. In my opinion that’s also strength. (Duisburg-Marxloh 3)

Everyone is strong in special way or though, no tough rather not, but strong, (Interviewer: In which special way are you strong?) I’m rather a quiet person. I can tolerate much, very much. But it goes in one ear and out the other. (Berlin-Neukoelln 4)

A strong man? I say, a man who does not knock out another with through a punch but with words. He, for me, he is tough. He, he can control himself. (Berlin-Neukoelln 9)

However, it has to be mentioned that this approach is the coping strategy of young men who consciously avoid and oppose the dictates of street culture in such neighborhoods. However, the protection of one’s image on the streets might be related to upholding an aggressive appearance/behavior, but it also implies the undeniable readiness to protect the (image of the) family or loved ones, and sometimes girlfriends:

I don’t beat girls, well, but I had a quarrel with a girl, she called me a bastard then. I hate the word ‘bastard’, although I know that my mother is not a whore, but so. First I put my fist into my trousers and so I was calm. Then she repeated, then I said “You better go away”. Then I wanted to go and she called me a bastard again and I slapped her in the face. (Duisburg-Marxloh 2)

In my view, a strong man is, if he would defend his girlfriend from other people. (Berlin-Wedding 4)

Finally, steadfastness to one’s beliefs and values might be interpreted as a vehicle for showing toughness and strength too.

So, respect, no. […] For me it is like this, I only mess up with someone who is at my level. If I realize that he is afraid of me and says, please stop it, then I can’t beat him, because I see it that way, that is fear, cowardly. I will stop it. (Duisburg-Marxloh 6)

A strong man is for me a man who, in his decisions gives way to others or compromises […] But in principle one should stand one’s ground. (Berlin-Wedding 7)

Another ritual of toughness is self-reliance, which means that you can resolve your matters on your own. Standing their ground was a shared narrative among the youth. If someone challenges you, you need to be able to protect yourself without reliance on others. This is also street etiquette in the neighborhood, which is explained later in this chapter. Overall, there are diverse accounts of toughness and strength, although the young participants related toughness to manhood.

  • Pakistan

Like in Germany and South Africa, toughness is perpetrated in the form of manhood and masculinity. It is also important to show off male power through ruthless behavior (fights and violence). A male juvenile is often on the street and is allowed to sit with male friends in public spaces. Part of his masculinity is that he is expected to work hard, earn money, show toughness and demonstrate that he has the capacity to defend and fight for family honor. The more violent a person or the greater his reputation for violence, the more he gains respect and honor. However, a female is never expected to do the same. Rather, she is expected to be submissive, loyal and remain within the chadar (meaning covered in clothes) and the char devari (to remain within the four walls of the house). In Pakistani street culture, a woman may be vulnerable to leering, teasing and abuse. A woman on the street elicits low respect and that she is without honor. Male toughness was expressed as the ability to show off power through any means. Those who are tough are not afraid of hardships or fights:

Being tough means, you are never afraid of anyone. You are ready to face any situation. And I tell you one thing this poverty makes people very tough. Because if you are poor, you have to fight for your survival from dawn till dusk. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 5)

Everybody tries to look appealing in the street and so I do. I believe a person roughness and toughness has nothing to do with how he presents himself to the world. The thing which matters is that how tough one is from the heart, if a person has very good and hard and rough physique but runs away when he is confronted with a problematic situation, this means he is buzdil [coward]. A hahadur [brave] person will face a situation even when the odds are not in his favor. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)

The latter respondent further elaborated that he had to fight because he didn’t want to be coward and shameless:

If I tell you about my nature, I mostly avoid involvement in conflicts but sometimes I have to react and fight, because in our neighborhood if I always keep tolerating the aggression of other fellows so they will start considering me a shameless person and an easy target, as they did with my friend as well. But luckily after having some very intense fights now, most of the guys in my neighborhood avoid making any trouble with me. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)

If I’m alone and having a fight with some boys who outnumbers me, I will never backup rather I will face them and show them that how tough I am. And I have done this too. As few months ago, I was involved in a fight with 3 boys, I do fight with them alone and did not ran away like cowards. I never do this thing [remark: running] because I am not a spineless person or coward. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)

However, some respondents claimed that they did not show toughness to women and children:

Violence against women and children cannot be considered as bravery or toughness. It could only be considered as a shameless act. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)

Fighting produces a reputation, which in turn brings honor and respect. The adolescents and other people considered it as a value—people extend respect and honor to the toughest person. Another respondent stated:

Everyone is afraid of us and that is how we survive through intimidating others because without bullying one cannot survive in existing era, but we didn’t quit our studies. If we don’t study, we cannot survive because the coming era would be technically very advance. Yes, the coming era’s advancement is beyond our imagination. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 29)

The case is a unique example of a clearly violent adolescent. Tough adolescents are of the view that they have territorial control due to their toughness. If someone else arrives to exhibit toughness, it is a challenge and they reply with more toughness to show who has the greater power and authority. As one respondent explained:

Everyone here wants to prove that he is tough and strong. If outsiders come to this area, these boys start conflicts with him. They cannot tolerate, even a minor disagreement between them. This situation causes conflicts between them; they consider their muhallas [remark: place] as their property. (Islamabad-France Colony 16)

To sum up, for most of the Pakistani respondents, toughness reflects manhood, the physical strength of a person, and the temperament to face hardship. It is a person with the strength to face adversity, fight with others, and to dominate the fight. It is also a reflection of a person willing to demonstrate high levels of violence to show that he has the capacity and strength to mobilize peers and engender fear among weaker people. However, some of the respondents did not agree with the above perspective of toughness. These adolescents believe in struggle, hard work, and school education. They do not want to become aggressive or tough to get recognition.

  • South Africa

In South Africa too, toughness as a concept is intricately embedded in understandings of manhood and masculinity and is of specific importance to young men in South Africa for a variety of reasons, ranging from the socioeconomic concern with men being placed as a “providers”, to the cultural, in which rites of passage and rituals define different cohorts as boys or men. Indeed, the latter is of particular importance to young black men, as defined by the ontological strata touched upon above. Manhood is furthermore closely linked to respect in deeply symbolic ways, in which to “be a man” is instrumental to garnering respect. As one participant noted for instance:

It’s based on how they act. Their attitude towards it. If they go around, bragging about it, I’m going to think there is something you can’t do, so now you go around bragging, because you have a weakness, and someone can exploit that. If you throw stuff like that in my face, it gets irritating. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 14)

To show weakness or to make oneself vulnerable is viewed negatively, and as “irritating”. Importantly, this judgement is made not in reference to a threat or as a derivative of acts that are to be feared, but in terms of pettiness and marginality. Put differently, the participant finds such displays “irritating” because they are symptomatic of the actions of “boys”, of other young males who have yet to act in a manner representative of what he conceives as definitive of being a man. The behavior is irritating because it is pestilent rather than threatening, akin to a younger sibling attempting and yet failing to threaten an older brother.

I can define tough as something that is hard to do basically something that is tough is normally beyond you it is something that is hard for you can’t do it and most of the time you can beat it and overcome all the all that comes to you. (Durban-KwaMashu 2)

Toughness is also defined in relation to the social context, or more accurately, the survivability of specifically challenging social situations that require an individual to go beyond their normal abilities or those expected by others in the social cohort. As one participant noted:

Yeah this is a tough situation you like okay I am about to get arrested but there’s a way out, you have to sit down think about what you going to say and then you lie your way out of it, you got out of a tough situation and that’s how you get out of a tough situation. (Durban-KwaMashu 10)

Interestingly, toughness is then similar in logic to that of an enemy, in that both are seen as ambiguous and rely on the preexisting networks within the cohort in order to have a definition, rather than be entirely alien to or outside of the group or area. Such a contextual understanding of what constitutes toughness was well narrated by another participant, whose understanding of toughness is closely related to survivability. Such a link to survival is perhaps a function of the context, in which the participants did not conceptualize life and their futures in terms of achieving goals or attaining goods, but rather in simply surviving and not dying:

It is not having the things that you need an order to live a nice life. That is a tough life. You see now, even now, I also don’t have a job and I always have to ask my mother and if she does not have, I have to ask from the pension of my grandmother. I also have to try and respect them so that they can give me what I need. So that I can also be able to buy clothes. In real fact things are really difficult. Because if you look at my life, since the school failed me, it is difficult. Sine I don’t have matric, there is no way for me to get a decent job which can support me. It is tough. I don’t know if it is because I am born from Inanda. Yes. The life here is tough. But life is possible because anyway we were born here, what we can do. All we need to do is to push and keep trying. (Durban-KwaMashu 2)

Similarities: Toughness is similar in the three countries under scrutiny. In all contexts, toughness was linked to masculinity and the image of a real man. This included the ability to fight, in particular, and the absence of weakness to stay safe. However, street peers rather than family were the role models for the cultivation of this image. The idea of a violent masculinity is close to the concept of respect but is limited to subcultural contexts or behavior within friendship groups or toward juveniles (males and females) of the same age.

Differences: Toughness was linked to identification with the neighborhood in Germany, but not in South Africa or Pakistan. Thus, the poor reputation of a neighborhood can be reinterpreted as a source of power, but only if the neighborhood is a small environment with which juveniles have close contact, such as sports club or public schools, e.g., in sports club or in public schools. If not, the possibilities of such a reinterpretation are absent.

9.4.4 Comparison of Friends

For street-oriented people, their individual loyalties and commitments to family members and friends are crucial to their understandings of themselves, others, and the norms which shape their lives (Anderson 1999: 71). In many cases, young men become involved in escalated situations because of friendship. In schools and on the streets, young men are likely to establish a small group of friends from their neighborhoods. They have particular expectations and stand up for each other, so as to create cohorts and groupings with which they have solidarity and thus safety.

  • Germany

In the risky neighborhoods , adolescents count on their friends, particularly in violent situations. They engage in brawls and fights for their friends and groups as well. In risky neighborhoods, young men think that trust and loyalty are important in friendship and they have an expectation that friends help in difficult situations. While talking about friendship, a young participant expressed this opinion:

Pfff […] loyalty is important, I think, that you can also trust him [friend], not that he, that I confide something to him and he betrays me the next moment, because, that one can rely on him. Yes, if I need help sometimes or he needs help, of course you also have to be there. Of course, also that you get along well, yes, that’s logical, that you can have fun and simply there must be true chemistry between you. I think such things are important. (Duisburg-Marxloh 9)

Here, the interviewed juvenile highlights the mutual nature of trust and friendship. This kind of loyalty is essential for a close-knit friendship, which is important for the reputation at the street. In similar accounts by other participants, they acknowledged a sense of safety with friends in the neighborhood. Generally, adolescents clearly distinguished between friends and peers. They described friends as people with whom they have a strong bond of trust and who stand by them; a street-peer with whom to spend time and socialize in the neighborhood. Below are accounts of young men talking about their friends:

Well, one with whom you can share everything, I have only one best friend, others are chilling-peers with whom I chill. I tell everything to my best friend. He knows everything about me and with him I hang around most of time, and no matter, he always stands behind me. We also don’t quarrel very often, and yes no idea, the one you trust most, that is the best friend. (Duisburg-Marxloh 2)

And friend. For me it is a difference what I feel. Because the other is not real to you. You know, the one is real, but the other is not real, you know? The one sticks together with you and the other doesn’t stick together. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 8)

Clearly, these storylines depict the level of mistrust in the neighborhoods and that adolescents are wary of making friends. Some of the participants mentioned that some of their friends took their girlfriends and betrayed them. Therefore, the adolescents are very careful about choosing friends. They reaffirm their friendship and their bond in various situations. Some of them mentioned that their brothers, cousins, and schoolmates are their close friends.

In addition to friends, the adolescents belong to small groups and spend time together within neighborhoods. Most of these group are gender and ethnically mixed. After school and work, they meet in the park or youth center where they socialize with these peers and seek their identity. They gain street knowledge and the social environment generates a street lifestyle. These groups are also crucial for socialization and security in the neighborhoods.

  • Pakistan

Friendship was an important part of the street code in Pakistani neighborhoods. In fact, we found much of the debate centered around friendship—its meanings, composition, characteristics, role, and relationship among friends. The respondents were open to talk about their friends. A respondent conceived a friend as:

A person who can help you in your painful moments is your friend. If they are unable to help you then, they should not be our friends. Those with whom I do have a friendship, they are all good. They will surely come to help me in the hour of need. We have a strong bond of friendship when it comes to any problem. We do not care about what people say about my friends. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 25)

Clearly, loyalty is a significant component of friendship. A respondent considered it as an important aspect of their life. He reported:

I think there is no better thing in the world than having the company of good friends. The friends who are there for you in any kind of situation, who never betray you, who help you in every situation of joy and sadness are the best kind of friends. We help each other in every situation and are always there for each other. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 5)

Revenge taking is an integral part of the Pakistani street culture. Friends help each other in taking revenge from an opponent when needed, as one interviewee noted:

I have very good friends. If I fight with someone and I ask my friends for help. They will take revenge for me, same as I do for them as well. I do help them whenever they require me. Last week a Punjabi group beat our Pathan friend in school, when we came to know about that we took revenge of him. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 6)

An important characteristic of friendship is trust and confidence in each other. Further, these friends expect sincerity in their friendship relations. Trust and sincerity strengthen the mutual relations of friends. Conversely, a respondent mentioned that friendship is a voluntary act and one cannot be forced to become a friend:

A person has to gain our trust if he wants to be our friend. And for that he has to show that he is sincere with us and will take part with us in our activities and will never run away whenever we confront a problematic situation. A person can leave our group of friends anytime; you cannot force anyone to remain your friend. Everyone has the freedom to choose with whom he wants to be friend with. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 7)

Another interview partner mentioned that sincerity and commitment to friends are core values of friendship. For him:

Only that guy can remain our friend who shows sincerity and commitment to us. Not some person who runs away when we need him. So, when a person becomes our friend, we make sure that he is honest and loyal to us, and if we get to know that someone is backstabbing us, we do not keep friendship with him anymore. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 4)

A respondent mentioned that trust is a necessary characteristic for the friendship. He argued:

I have a trust in all my friends and they also trust me. I have never betrayed them, and I am always there for them in their highs and lows. It is important for all groups. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 21)

Similarly, another respondent stated:

It is the trust which keeps us united. All the friends trust each other regardless of the situation. When a friend makes a call, it is obligatory for me to get there without any questions. We’re always happy to respond. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 22)

Friends rescue their friends in problematic situations. They come forward and help when a friend is in jail. They provide social, political and moral support. They provide food and arrange legal assistance and help them to get out from the jail:

If a friend of us is arrested by the police, we try to contact any influential figure to help us in this regard, if we do not get any help then we collect money among us and give it to the police in order to get him out of the jail. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 7)

However, all friends are not equal or as resourceful in helping their friends. Some friends were reported as cheaters or they were absent when their help, assistance, and support was needed by their friends. They were considered selfish. Another respondent mentioned:

A friend is the one who helps you in your need. Some friends are selfish, they will be very close to you when they need something from you, but when you need their help, they make excuses. I don’t like such friends, but even if they need me, I leave my own work and try to solve their problems. I may lay down my life for true friends, but I really hate cheaters. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 8)

Friendship in Pakistani neighborhoods is not limited to homogeneous groups. People frequently mentioned that they have friendships with Pashtun, Punjabi, and other local ethnic groups. These friendships are established within the neighborhoods and on the streets. A respondent explained:

Those who are living here, we have friendship with them. They are our peers. We have been living with them for a long period of time. I was born here. I have friendship with both Pathans and Punjabis. There is no such division that if you are a Punjabi, then you must have friendship with Punjabi only. We also have different friends at school and they are from different areas. Some of them are also my friends at both school and outside of school. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 11)

Another respondent thought that these friendships are based on self-interests. They form groups to watch their interests. A respondent explains his views about friendship and groups:

These groups consist of both Punjabi and Pathan. Malangi group is largest and it has only Punjabi boys. Their group composition depends upon their interests, if they found a guy helpful to them and trustworthy, they would allow him to join their group. And if they come to know about a guy is being untrustworthy, they expel him from their group. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 26)

After the family, friends are the most important source for social and emotional support. These groups are formed to play sports, help and socially support each other in difficult times. Respect is an important component, which holds the group together. They use different nicknames, based on their physical and social attributes. A respondent stated:

A friend among us is given more respect who is always there to help other friends and who never left his friends’ side in any situation. We have a friend who is very aggressive, we call him jaddu his physique is also very strong he uses to go to gym that’s why most of the guys in neighborhood are afraid of him and never ever think of making trouble with him. Anyone can become our friend if he stays with us, gives us respect and helps us in every situation and who proves himself trustworthy. And we did not keep friendship with a guy who did not come to our aid when we needed him. Once I needed my friends, I called a few of them but no one came to my aid, after that I gave up contact with them, but after few weeks they came to me and apologized for their act I also forgive them. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 26)

Among the violent friendship groups, fights are common. They do not only fight with each other but also with opponents. The research teams inquired about the reasons underlying group composition and formation. Several reasons were mentioned including but not limited to having fun, idle people in need of company, school companionship, to play sports together, and engaging in deviant acts (narcotics usage, supply, and to avoid fights or get support in fights). As the respondents reported:

I have a large group of friends and they are idle like me. Some of my friends also study in schools and colleges and few of them do jobs as well, however the majority of my friends are jobless and do nothing. We spend most of the time together outside our homes. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 5)

I am a frequent visitor of Bri Darbar [Shrine]. Here I meet my friends to have fun. I come here for enjoyment. We meet friends because it is enjoyable to pass comments on nearby passing girls. Every day several numbers of girls come to Bri Imam and it provides an opportunity for us enjoy the scene [watching girls and passing comments]. There are also visitors who brought food with them [Rice] in order to distribute that among the people. We also eat it. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 21)

When asked if their family members were aware of their group and its activities, many of the interviewees mentioned that their family was unaware of the groups. A respondent reported:

They remain unaware about the conflicts. They are not being told about the issue as it stays away from home. Only the friends and group members have the information. If they receive any information by any means they we make them believe that its usual stuff not a problem. I have been advised by my family to stay away from conflicts but again there comes the friendship which is also important thing. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 21)

Another respondent concurred with the above claim. He stated:

We do not involve our families in our personal matters. I have never involved my family for such issues. Issues and problems are the part of life and it is the bravery of a person to tackle the issue with ease. If you are brave, then there is nobody that could make bow.

If the friends are informed about the personal matters, they can understand the issue. They are also ready to help you. I have friends and they are also ready to sacrifice at all times, because I have also sacrificed for them several times. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 24)

  • South Africa

Friends were often expressed as the most important aspect of individuals’ lives, not only in terms of the companionship that they may bring, but also because it is through their association that individuals find protection, a sense of belonging, and are integral to the process by which they define themselves. Leading on from the following code, the concept of friendship was often expressed through its negation and had much to do with respect. One participant noted that:

A friend is someone who doesn’t respect me it would be someone who would walk in here I am sitting with my friends and gives everyone a R5 and he doesn’t give me every single day of my life not just on that one single day. (Durban-KwaMashu 10)

Such material benefits expected of friendship are not, however, limited in that manner, but rather are a means of expressing a deeper ontological understanding of friendship as an important facet of one’s own identity, as noted by another participant:

A friend is somebody you are close with, somebody you spend a lot of time with. When you wake up you think of this person. You think of them when you are just sitting or when you are eating. Sometimes you wonder whether they have food to eat. A friend is somebody who seems like you share blood with. (Durban-KwaMashu 2)

Such facets can also be generative of forms of protection, and importantly, as a means of justifying one’s own beliefs and understandings of the world, as touched upon by another participant:

It is important because you find a person that you can open up to, this is a person that you can trust with your life, and he is very close to you. You should not be killed by guilty conscience when you have a friend. (Durban-KwaMashu 5)

It is for this reason that friendship and understandings of truth were often linked together, as seen in the above quotes, but which was also more extensively spoken about by another participant:

A friend for me is someone you speak too and you can tell everything whether it is something that is bothering you or is not going well and you seeking for advice, or it could be someone you get happy with but friends also differs because there are best friends and also just a friend a best friend is the one who you close with so much and that best friend ends up being your go to person your number your brother or sister, and you talk to that person about everything you trust them with your all and then there is a friend that you meet in class, you work with, your travel with etc. someone you don’t with all your heart not like a best friend. (Durban-KwaMashu 6)

Such bonds of trust, normalized through the understanding that friends occupy a special place in another’s life, and should be accorded special provisions, translate into a concern with the fulfillment of personal safety. As one participant noted:

A friend is someone you share with everything like your views, what you like, where you are visiting etc. a friend is someone you can trust so much depending on how your relationship is with the person you call a friend. You must tell that person you call your friend let’s say you are in trouble that friend can help there is a true friend who is your ride or die, all your secrets you can share with your friend knowing he or she will have your back no matter what. (Durban-KwaMashu 7)

Similarities: The idea of friendship was similar between all contexts. Friendship is shaped by mutual trust and loyalty. Friends are a source of identity and the values within a group of friends are powerful influences on males’ behavior. Moreover, friends play the role of protector in a threatening environment and seen from this perspective, friends are a type of weapon. Conversely, friends are also a source of disappointment and can behave fraudulently, especially if they do not fulfill their duties, like providing support in a violent situation, or by taking one’s girlfriend.

Differences: The only important difference in terms of conceptions was in relation to the role and structures imposed by the existence of gangs. In Germany, no gang activity was mentioned. However, “loose” gangs were reported by juveniles in Pakistan and clearly organized gangs were mentioned in South Africa. Those gangs are usually very violent and friendship in those groups includes sharing economic activities, like drug dealing, and showing through violence that one belongs to the group as intended protection against future violence.

9.4.5 Comparison of Respect

Respect is one of the principal codes in both Anderson’s study and in the data gathered in the three countries. It is furthermore intimately tied with violence, both as a driver of violence in the name of respect or as a means of garnering respect, and inversely, in being drawn from the symbolic use of violence itself. In the inner city neighborhoods, respect on the street may be considered a form of social capital and a safeguard against future victimization (Anderson 1999: 87). However, it is challenged by counterparts through insulting and taking possessions. The common view among young males is that the maintenance of respect is important to them. They felt more disrespect when someone showed disrespect to their family, particularly to their mother or by talking about them behind their back. However, some of the respondents, particularly from Pakistan, said that if they believed that the person respected their family (especially mother, sister, or any other close relative) they showed respect to them as well. Moreover, the respondents justified violence as revenge for disrespect. They considered it as an essential act to safeguard respect and family honor.

  • Germany

As noted in the previous chapter, respect is the most pronounced street code that was found in the German context. Gaining respect and retaliation to disrespect are salient trajectories mentioned repeatedly by German interviewees. As such, it has an important structuring effect on the worldviews and frameworks of the interviewees, so much so that it is often a principle goal and fundamentally informs the life narratives of individuals that were interviewed. In their campaign for respect, youths portray a strong character on the street, for instance, through the manifestation of manhood and toughness. Most of the young participants believe that a violent reputation is instrumental in gaining respect on the street. There is always a dual nature to respect in this guise, with violence being used as a means of garnering respect and yet once respect has been achieved, respect can operate as a symbolic form of capital which may subsequently prevent actual violence because of an individual’s status or reputation. As such, several German participants engaged in violent street activities to gain a violent image and respect. While talking about respect, a 20-year-old respondent living in Dortmund-Nordstadt noted:

[…] by now nothing happens to me, because the people know me. Because they know I easily freak out if something happens. So, I have my name [reputation], I would say, I created my name [respect]. So at first, everyone said, come, let’s chase him. Frequently several persons came to me or my siblings. […] Once also, my little brother was fasting, he came to me and was crying. Then I wanted to go to the little children, because they wanted to snatch his phone, and I said, listen boys, my little brother is fasting. If I hear again, that you do something, I go to your parents and show you in front of your parents who I really am. So to speak, don’t touch him anymore. […] And since then also anything [happened] again. And yes, somehow like with those 15 Bulgarians, with whom I fought, since then also nobody comes to me and to wants to fight with me or so. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 7)

The above excerpt from a young man reveals that a violent reputation is a form of cultural capital that can itself be used to gain respect and protection in the risky neighborhood. He recollects the harsh experience of being a victim of violence before having used similar forms of violence to win the respect and thus relative safety that is engendered by the reputation built on the use of violence. There is an irony here, but one that reveals one reason for the prioritization of respect—once respect is garnered through the use of violence, it allows for a relatively peaceful future existence. Thus, he notes later that his violent encounters engendered a reputation in the neighborhoods and he believes that it safeguards him and his family. Similar accounts were reported in other neighborhoods as well. The symbolic capital drawn from the use of violence must periodically be shored up or redisplayed to cement the reputation upon which respect from others is derivative. As already stated, disrespect is repaid with violence, particularly an affront to one’s mother. An interviewee explained the following account when he was asked how to respond to disrespect:

Teach him respect. Well, I mean not hitting him directly or so. But […] when one is disrespecting parents, I am more aggressive. Therefore, give him a slap for respect. Not boxing him. But such a slap. (Berlin-Wedding 4)

The narrative of a young man argued that the consequences of insolence are to teach the perpetrator a lesson through violence. In a similar fashion, another interviewee shared a story that happened to him:

Disrespect itself, for instance, also leads to violence. For example, today a little child has offended me several times indirectly. Why are you so tall? I told him several times to stop. Also told him differently, more strictly. Then he even got one. But such a slap for respect, so that he shall respect the older one. So, just disrespect can cause violence. (Berlin-Neukoelln 6)

The narration formulates the rule of respect and disrespect legitimating violence. The adolescents affirmed the prevalence of the rule of respect and that those who do not follow the rules, deserve punishment, which results in violence. The subject of the most significant insult—mothers—reveals that the use of violence is not somehow divorced from the context in which the individual finds himself. In general, the adolescents accentuated the need to show respect to family members and older people in their neighborhoods. An 18-year-old young interview partner illustrates that by the following comment:

I know many other teenagers, we were taught all by our parents, we are all polite. All are polite, how we talk, help elderly people, nothing. But sometimes, when we see that others are disrespectful, we also get a bit nervous. We also say, what are you doing. Help Mr. So-and-so, he doesn’t have much money, what are you doing. That’s how we are. Yes, the others maybe, other teenagers don’t do that. They have not been taught respect, respect by their parents. (Duisburg-Marxloh 1)

In the narration of this young participant shows the civility and respect toward the elderly. This respect is derivative of the knowledge and acknowledgement of a larger chain of being and so as an acknowledgment of their own life histories. Most interviewees understand respect in normative ways and positively in relation to mutual respect. Thus, a young man notes:

Respect should be for parents and oneself, for example, it is mutual, if you want respect, you will have to respect. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 10)

Mutual respect, based on the acknowledgement of potential violence that could be perpetuated against one another, becomes a crucial means of building alliances and even friendships. Overall, the accounts of the young participants showed similar broader perspectives about respect, albeit with various individual idiosyncrasies and perspectives. “Diss me, and I will show you who I am” is the most accentuated theme by youths in these neighborhoods. The narrations indicate that the maintenance of respect protects them in their neighborhoods and constructs a ruthless reputation. Other viewpoints of young interviewees about respect is more normative, which rests on a moral relationship with others and regarding others respectfully, particularly their mothers and the elderly.

  • Pakistan

Respect is also an important aspect in the Pakistani street code, albeit narrated through a somewhat different cosmology. It is primarily linked with the family as a whole but is however not limited to or understood as solely derivative of an individual person. Particularly, respecting women (mother, sister, and wife or other female members) is a significant code of the street. The adolescents become aggressive when they see any kind of disrespect for any of their family members. It is the prime duty of a male to protect the respect and honor of his family in general, but of the women of his family in particular. If a man is unable to protect his family, he is considered as “buzdil” (coward), which is a negative sign of masculinity and manhood. Respect then is not only symbolically linked to violence but is a key mechanism for the display of masculinity. An aggressive person garners high respect. Further, the level of aggression and status of a person to protect physically is of great importance. If a young adult is able to demonstrate high levels of aggression in response to a show of disrespect against any family member, he is considered as “bahadur” (a great man). In return, he enjoys more respect and honor. Similar to the German data, respect is an important and clear code of the street and has a mutual nature. Here are some of the extracts from the data:

[…] for us dignity, honor and respect are the main things. And if someone harms my dignity and self-respect I cannot tolerate it. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 26)

Respect is respect. If someone does not respect me, how would I be able to respect him/her. If someone doesn’t respect you there is no point respecting him back. If someone does not answer to your Salam, it is considered as disrespect. For example, if I am on date with a girl and she disclosed the secrecy to someone else this would be a shameful act for me because my friends will say “He has been disgraced by his girlfriend”. This is a shame for me. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)

Respect is also essential for the membership in groups. In this regard, some interviewees underline the central role of the group leader. Thus, one respondent argued, that the leader is responsible for passing norms of respect. For another respondent, the respect for a senior member is the utmost and only indicator of being part of the group. In the case of deviancy, deviants are expelled from the group. For deviants and nonconformists, life on the street becomes difficult. They are marginalized and may become a victim of the harsh behavior of their erstwhile group. Opponent groups are already against them and they experience hostility from all sides. Consequently, they may apologize and become a part of the violent group.

PST (one of the groups) has its member and they respect us, but those who are children (chotay) are not aware of it. They are harshly treated so that they can obey the senior members of the group. The group leader is responsible to pass the norms of the groups to the members about who should be respected and who should not. If they do not learn they are made to leave the groups. It again becomes difficult for those members to live freely in this area. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 21)

He who follows the members of the group is suitable. If he accepts the senior as his senior and follows the norms it means that individual is suitable to become the member of the group. Inside the group respect and obedience is essential. If the members are obeying each other it means they are respecting each other. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 22)

For me respect is that people do not call me with bad names. If you are a thief or a robber or do drugs people have no respect for you. There should be acceptability of an individual among the peers, neighbors and friends. If an individual is respected, then it is the ultimate respect of the family. If you are deviant, you have no respect. (Islamabad-France Colony 16)

The adolescents were asked how respect can be earned. One person clearly mentioned that respect is earned through whatever means. It could be either respect for respect, money for respect or the use of force and violence to show physical strength and create fear among others to gain respect. Another respondent expressed these views:

Respect is a very important thing but not everyone gets it neither everyone gives it. Most of the time you have to earn it either by your efforts or by force. Guys who are very much violent are given more respect in the street by fellows and peers. If a guy does not want to play with us or make a bet on the game or he avoids violence so then we have nothing to do with him. He has his own life and own choices, we don’t force him. But I think noble people have no such place in this neighborhood because here respect is given to those who are more violent and aggressive. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 26)

It is pertinent to mention that respect also has levels. It was asked who earns the highest respect in risky urban neighborhoods. The answer indicates significant characteristics of respect:

The guy who is the toughest among us, who is always there for other friends in times of need, who never runs away from fights and who fights like a man, is given much respect and honor. We have a friend we call him fouji (solider) is a very nice guy but he is short tempered as well, he is habitual of starting fight with other guys over very minor things like if someone is stalking his girlfriend, he will start beating that guy. But with all that we give him a lot of respect because he fights for us. He has helped me many times and I also try to help him back whenever he needs my help. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)

Another respondent reported a more egalitarian understanding of respect among his friends:

We all friends are equal, there is no such inferiority or superiority. However, other boys on the street have formed groups in which they have chosen their leader. They remain in the group all the time and mostly fight as a team with other guys. Their leader is mostly the toughest guy among them who is very good at fighting. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 28)

It is visible that there is hierarchy of relationships (despite of a respondent’s disagreement) among members of the group. The hierarchy is based on age-based seniority, physical strength, toughness, shortness of temper, courage, daring, and not being cowardly. However, this is not the only reason to get respect. Resources and money accumulation are also important indicators of gaining respect.

I want to earn money so that I can have a healthy life. If you are poor, this means that nobody will respect you. I am thankful to God that I am working and earning, and it is difficult for them who don’t. Even the family members are not ready to accept them. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 21)

The respondents believe that they have to accumulate money in order to gain respect. Those youngsters who have money and resources, receive respect from everyone—members of the group, family, and everyone on the street. However, if a person does not have money, he is perceived as a person that requires the minimum of respect.

Respect for women, children and elderly people is important and it is the norm in local society. A person must always demonstrate respect for elders (parents, grandparents and elderly people) as well as elder brothers, sisters; in fact, anyone older than oneself. Much like the German example then, respect for one’s own history and heritage—marked through the respect of elders and traditions, for instance—remains as important as individual respect garnered through the use of violence. If someone deviates, others may impose sanctions. They may fight or become violent with each other. Similarly, if a person experiences disrespectful behavior toward his family, he becomes violent, because he does not want to lose face due to the disrespecting behavior of others.

I do respect my parents, not only my parents but every old man and woman. If I tell you about my toughness, you can get the idea from the fact that I started working and earning when I was only 8 or 9 years old. I have faced so many difficulties in very harsh situations, I have spent days and nights without food, all those situations have made me strong. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 1)

Once we were sitting here near Bri Imam [shrine] there were two girls sitting with their mother. Few boys were teasing those girls. I went to them and told these boys not to do that. They taunted me and said why are you getting angry, are these girls your sisters? I said I have no relation with these girls, but I also have sisters like them at my home. Then those boys called their other friends and they warned me to mind my own business. This thing made me lose my temper and I started fighting with them. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)

Few days ago, a boy in our neighborhood was stalking my sister who uses to go to nearby madrassa. My sister told me that this guy is stalking her for last three to four days. Next day, I went to that guy and I told him to avoid doing this thing again he said ok. But next day he did the same and my sister told me that he did it again, it made me so angry and I went after that guy. I found him near the cricket ground and beat him so much. Now he will never do this again then I taught him a lesson. Another thing which cannot be tolerated is if someone among my friends backstabs me, means discloses my personal information and things to my family members, things that I don’t want them to become aware of. If someone does that then he has to face its consequences. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)

Family respect and honor are an integral part of socialization in Pakistan. Pakistani socialization requires a person to spend their whole life earning money for the family and to protect the family and maintain its the respect. It is the supreme responsibility of every citizen. Respect is an essential code of the street and its preservation is important for adults in the risky urban neighborhoods of Pakistan. It is produced, reproduced, and consumed both on and off the streets in Pakistan. Similar to the German data, young people’s interviews reflected that respect must be shown to elderly people, women, and children.

  • South Africa

In South Africa, respect was articulated by the participants in two ways, one of which might be understood as the “public” narrative and the other the “private” narrative. The different usages of these two narratives were most clearly highlighted by comparing the results from individual interviews and the focus group discussions. In the latter, the participants frequently articulated respect in terms of distinctions between those who were deemed successful and those who were not. In this guise, respect is a function of one’s position in society, whether it be socioeconomic or through sociocultural distinction—the successful sportsman was seen as equally as respectable as the successful businessman. A particular participant was emphatic in his description of success, and in this articulation, also respect:

I can define success as a time when you have achieved all your goals. All your dreams have come true. You have everything that you have wished for in life. Although I know that as people we always wish for more. But there are times when you can see that some people have achieved what they were wishing for. Some people wanted to become doctors and they have achieved that. They have also wished that they could get married and now they are married. It is having everything that you have wished for. I see that as success. (Durban-KwaMashu 5)

Respect is furthermore not only garnered in the obtaining of such distinctions, but also in laboring toward such a goal. Thus, in terms of a public narrative, those participants identified either themselves or their peers as successful when they could be seen as visibly working toward such more widely shared goals. For instance, one participant noted:

Actually, my older cousin. I grew up with him and he didn’t study further, but he went back to finish his matric and now he is the manager or assistant manager at Kirstenbosch Gardens. He used every opportunity that he could and that is how I want to be. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 10)

Such broad overtures to success and respect as the visible manifestation of economic, social or cultural power are however complicated when compared to the “private” narrative articulated by participants in the individual interviews. Respect was also understood to be an important means of both acknowledging and indicating attention to the importance of historical narratives and traditions, a cosmology in which inheriting and passing on traditional forms of knowledge is important and marked by numerous rites of passage. One participant noted that:

Respect is that to respect is to respect someone who is older than you respect is doing something that you know that okay it is to do something which you don’t want another person to do it its always looking for whether being the better person, respect its knowing your lane and being conscious of everybody surrounding you in such a way that you guys don’t you won’t clash because if you people respect each other. (Durban-KwaMashu 8)

With the peer pressure to normalize societal understandings of what constitutes respect and success removed to some extent (although it should be noted that by virtue of the interviewer being present, such attempts at normalization can never be entirely removed, especially in the context of South Africa’s recent history in which the interviewer was “white” and the participants primarily “colored” or “black”). The resulting “private” narrative of violence far more closely linked to physical ability, the capability to commit violence, and a life history of having used violence to maintain respect. Interestingly though, the use of violence as a means of enforcing respect was itself understood as a normalized leadership strategy and behavioral outcome.

It happens everywhere if, people don’t […] if someone is going to get robbed, and they don’t like to want to give their things over, then gangsters are obviously going to like to try to take it off them, and if they try to stop them, most of the time they will stab the person, because that’s how it works. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 14. Emphasis added)

“It” here stands as symbolic of what constitutes the norm and is itself representative of the participant’s understanding of the normal. Fundamentally important, though, was the importance of ensuring that the reality presented to the participants by their peers was an authentic one, and one that was based on authentic experiences. One participant noted this:

Like if you are just straight up to me like you take me, I can’t explain it, you just got to be straight up with me and don’t tell lies. If you respect me whatever you do you will not lie to me. Once you have done it you will not back down for it, if you do something but if you don’t respect yourself you are going to lie. (Durban-KwaMashu 8)

That this is the default and expected outcome is indicative both of the extensive use of violence in order to articulate and defend self-mandated conceptions of respect. It is furthermore positioned as a verb, indicative of respect being articulated through actions, in which violence is not only the vehicle through which respect is achieved but through which it is enforced, to emphasize the word in its repetition. This duality shall be more extensively explored in relation to the code of success, and respect and success are intimately interlinked.

Similarities: A common theme relating to the code of respect in the interviews across the sites is that respect is both a vehicle for the cementing of as well as one by which to initially garner a reputation. If built on the use of violence, and symbolically reinforced through myth and storytelling, then such a reputation can both provide cultural capital and protect from further violence. Having “a name” is both violent and peaceful, which shows the ambivalent character of respect in the identity of male juveniles. It is nothing they can be sure about and need to campaign for it all the time, but the way to accumulate the reputation is at minimum twofold. On the one hand, young males need to act violently and show the ability to fight, to become respected. On the other hand, and this is in opposition to Anderson’s description of the dynamics within the African American neighborhood in Philadelphia in the 1990s, those violent characters need to act politely and with loyalty toward their friends and family, but also to elders and unknown citizens. So male juveniles in risky neighborhoods are in a dilemma of contradictory expectations and can only lose, which causes anger and frustration. However, a pattern that emerged is that having a reputation is assumed to protect people from violence.

Differences: Clear differences are observable in the perception of money and the manner in which respect is connected to the accruement of material capital. Having money is perceived as a goal in life, but it does not mean, that having money necessarily or directly correlates with respect amongst peers. It stands on its own and the perception depends on the broader context. However, in the Pakistani interviews, such a causality is claimed. Another dissimilarity between the contexts is that only in South Africa, violence is a way to accumulate respect in the manner Anderson describes in the example of the Germantown neighborhood in Philadelphia. Neither in Germany, nor in Pakistan such a direct path described is by the adolescents.

9.4.6 Comparison of Enemy

Close social bonds, such as seen in the dynamics between friends and close groups, are considered crucial for the safety of individuals who reside in risky neighborhoods. However, in case of disrespect, friends can turn into enemies, as narrated by Anderson (1999: 90) through the story of Malik and Tryee who were friends and used to hang around together, until Tryee felt disrespect and confronted Malik. Anderson (1999: 190) states that in inner city neighborhoods there is an environment of competition and youth are socialized competitively with peers. In the neighborhood, young people vie for respect, girlfriends, and reputation in the staging area and young people are jealous of each other. Furthermore, the residents of inner city neighborhoods have little trust in state institutions, particularly the justice system and police. They think that institutions have double standards: one for black and another for white people (Anderson 1999: 133). Therefore, there are a number of ambiguities through which the concept of the enemy both operates and is used to define individuals as enemies.

  • Germany

As has been mentioned, the youths in Germany spend much of their time together in small groups. A common viewpoint among adolescents about the “enemy” is other groups or counterparts who behave disrespectfully. What disrespect means differs between persons, the social situation, and personal attributes like age, religion or ethnicity, and the history of the social relationship between the individuals. One prominent theme in the interviews was insolent individuals who challenge the respect of family and friends:

An enemy? For me an enemy is, for example someone who […] insults my mother […] who for example did something to my best friend, […] steals his girlfriend, it’s like this for me, because with such I don’t want anything to do with it. (Duisburg-Marxloh 6)

An enemy? […] It used to be like this for me, an enemy is, like I said, if he insults my family several times. In my head he is directly my enemy. Just because! I keep in my mind who insults my family is immediately my enemy. Well I don’t hit him down! But we will not become friends. (Berlin-Wedding 4)

Though often minor, such acts of disrespect perpetuate the violence and enmity among adolescents in their neighborhoods. A storyline of young interviewee from Neukoelln about an enemy:

A person who fucks up. Although I shut up and still he carries on with it. And at some point you provoke each other, sometime you fight one other all the time. And then this is an enemy for me. He would be an enemy for me. Then there will be confrontation. (Berlin-Neukoelln 7)

Many adolescents noted their mistrust of their friends or people in the same age in the neighborhoods:

Enemy for me is ambiguous. Some people are two-faced, who talk with you, who laugh to your face, laugh. But talk behind the back. (Duisburg-Marxloh 5)

An enemy? An enemy for me is someone […] who so to say fucked up, he will never be my friend anymore. Because, I am respectful to him, but he is not to me. The thing, the thing doesn’t fit together. […] Well then, so to say I don’t text him anymore and he, I don’t go out with him anymore. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 5)

Among the adolescents, there is competition, e.g., for possessions and women, and in this race, friends can turn into enemies, for instance, if one betrays or tries to take up with the other’s girlfriend. Thus, several adolescents claimed that a person who is envious of one’s success and belongings can be defined as an enemy. One describes it like this:

Enemy? Is. Pfff. For example, if he sees in you dough, money. Or if he sees that you have good clothes. A lush car. You have a lush house. You buy for your wife, children clothes. Then, no idea, something else. That is one, how do you call that? A jealous person. We call that jealousy. (Berlin-Wedding 2)

In some ethnic diverse neighborhoods, the adolescents see new arrivals, particularly eastern European and Arabs, as competitors. This was stated by an adolescent from Marxloh while discussing what it meant to be an enemy:

Yes, there are some guys, for example, you always hear about the Arab, they are strong. Those are families, with those families you can’t mess up. It happens here in Marxloh. Of course, there are families like this. With them, people always say those Arabs, my god, they are. For me, many Arabs are friends with me. (Duisburg-Marxloh 6)

In Marxloh, the largest non-German ethnic groups are Turks, but in the past few years other minority groups, including eastern European and some Arabs, settled down in the neighborhood. As such, some of the youths see them as competitive and ascribed the higher crime rate to these new arrivals in neighborhoods:

Honestly speaking, I don’t feel well here anymore. Not anymore like before. Also, for example all the Bulgarian people, here are so many Bulgarians. […] one is worried about one’s bags, one’s phone, one’s money. (Duisburg-Marxloh 1)

Importantly, some of the participants reported being victims of police violence and misconduct. They have a little trust in the police and see them as enemy. The interview partners described that they are not treated well for two reasons: first being resident of the neighborhood and second because of their migration background.

  • Pakistan

An enemy is someone with whom one has had a minor disagreement, or where confusion or betrayal of a person has occurred, in the Pakistani interviews. Once a person is termed as an enemy, he is perceived as an enemy for life. Different from the German data, enmity in Pakistan is severe in nature and brings about violence. A respondent explained that every group has a purpose and they form alliances (friendship) or they align with others to secure themselves from enemies. As one participant noted:

All the groups have their purposes. For example, if anyone can help them with their activities, they will develop friendship with him. If anyone opposes them, they consider him as their enemy. (Islamabad-France Colony 16)

The enmity may start with a person, but it incorporates a family or ethnic group instantly, due to the collective nature of the society. In other words, the image of an enemy is not limited to an individual person only; his relatives and ethnic group may become involved due to the strong kinship system.

If the groups are involved in conflicts, then it means they are threat to others too. Sometimes it happens that the conflict becomes severe and that particular time there is a threat for ordinary people, too. (Islamabad-France Colony 17)

When the research team asked about the enemy, a respondent pointed out:

We stand over here [pointing towards the place where the people were entering into Darbar] and observe the boys. Information has been collected about the [behaviors] of the boy. We have sources [Banday] spread over here and they keep a close eye on the movement of those deviants. If we find that the boy is teasing girls, we follow them. By then, that particular boy also becomes aware and then we make him realize about our rules. If he accepts, it is all cool, but if he doesn’t, it means he has to prepare himself to become our enemy. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 22)

Once an incidence of enmity is reported, it becomes a source of future conflicts. The adolescents become allies or enemies of each other. They fight, they beat up, harm, and victimize each other. One respondent reported the details of a fight with an opponent group.

They [enemy] beat one of our friends. The reason was not known at that time. The name of our friend was Fauji. Those boys beat our friend [Fauji]. So it was a conflict among them. Then a time came when Fauji was not present and we were, the boys came here and asked about Fauji that who is Fauji amongst you. When we told them that Fauji is not present, they started to call us names. They were trying to make the issue serious. They started to abuse our friends. […] Then my cousin came and he pretended to be Fauji. He started to retaliate and at that very moment all our friends came there. One of the boys from the other group punched our friend with iron knuckles he was wearing in his fingers. We were sitting there idle and they were equipped with conflicting weapons. They were carrying Chabi, Zanjeer and Punch. We injured some of them. After that event we went to Police station and reported about the conflict. They were also there at police station to report. It’s been a year since that fight. The boys over here are harami [deviant]. They consider themselves the badmash [gangster] of the area. Violence has been the common norm amongst them. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 23)

Although these adolescents do not consider themselves as “gangs”, they nonetheless term the alliance as a “group”. Despite repeatedly being asked if they were a gang, they held fast to the terminology of being a “group”. It was also asked if they have frequent fights with each other or opponent groups. One of the respondents reported:

Yes, they fight a lot. Few days ago, Angar and Malangi group beat few students of nearby school collectively using locks of bicycle. Those students are not from our colony so that’s why they joined each other for the purpose of beating the boys and that what we do in our colony. We might have internal conflicts and contentions but when it comes to a collective action against an outsider we show unity and compete with them with full strength. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)

It was also asked of respondent: In what kind of fights have you been? A respondent gave further details of the reasons for the fights, repeating the need for avenging honor crimes committed against close relatives. He mentioned:

As I said, the honor and dignity of my family is very important to me and if someone is threatening me or my family, I can cross any limit to protect my family. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 2)

Closed groups, particularly cousins, have a high level of trust, compared to groups without familial or ethnic ties. Similarly, neighbors or close friends have more trust in each other compared to the trust of a distant person. Another interview partner provided insight into the trust and support required to fight with enemies:

The enmity exists among groups in a way that the groups from this France Colony resist the deviant activities by other groups. If they fight back, then the group members from this colony become united to fight together. We have seen them moving towards other areas of Islamabad in order to have fight with others. Sometimes they don’t even know what they are fighting for. (Islamabad-France Colony 16)

Young people gather informally on the corner of a street or a park and are close friends. If any of them has a problem, they send a message to their friends. Upon arrival, they identify the person who has created the friend’s problem as the enemy and may start a fight or in some cases, they do not join the fight. This behavior is mutually reciprocal. They join the fight in order to reduce their own vulnerability. The group is considered as their so-called “safety network”. Even friends who are reluctant to join in the fight, are forced to join. If they resist they are subject to violence and teasing by the rest of the group to force them to join the group. If the person does not join this group, he could join the opponent in order to get support, but either way, he needs to be part of a group to reduce his own vulnerabilities. Purposeless fights are often due to intoxication, family concerns, or occur through jealousy. As already stated, despite the need to show aggression, masculinity, toughness, and power to both friends and enemies, the enemy is nonetheless an important element of the street code in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

  • South Africa

Enemies were understood by the participants in South Africa in a composite manner, for those identified as enemies were used both in a comparative manner in relation to those they understood to be friends, yet also were used as normative markers by negation—enemies were those people who were not friends. The complexity and interplay of these different understandings can be witnessed in a quote from one of the participants:

Yes I do have enemies most cases people are the one that come to me and make an enemy out of me, let me speak about three people whom I regard as my enemy, one is an old man who use to go to our church, he shouted at man saying I must leave his kid no one is allowed to date at church and so I got slapped so till today he doesn’t know he is my enemy. (Durban-KwaMashu 7)

Enemies, more tangibly, were also seen as physical threats especially in Cape Town, where firearm violence poses a continued and almost constant threat both directly—through being targeted by a rival gang and shot at—and indirectly—by falling victim to a misdirected or ricocheting bullet. Indeed, the indirect threat of projectiles fired by gangs in conflict with one another has caused many thousands of deaths in many of the impoverished communities in the city, a process which was facilitated and expedited by a South African Police Service officer who sold over 1000 firearms, confiscated from other areas, to the gangs. He is at the time of writing serving a 15-year jail sentence.

Enemies occupy both a physical and conceptual reality in the minds of the participants, and form part of the architecture of the communities in which they live. Furthermore, they also serve to define the scope of that cityscape in terms of their ability to move around and visit other parts of the city. If, for instance, they are known to be from a particular gang with its owned defined territorial zone, then they cannot move to a rival gang’s territory without encouraging some sort of retaliation. Indeed, such an action would be seen as a form of disrespect, a pragmatic linkage between the concept of enemy, territory, and respect. As one participant noted:

An enemy is someone who can stop you from doing what you want to do that’s an enemy if someone wants to stop me from doing what I love, is trying to stop or getting in the way of me doing what I want to do then that person is an enemy but how I view, a person is their own enemy like you are your own enemy cause if you want to do something and you cannot because you can’t then you are your own worst enemy because no one is trying to stop you but yourself so I think I am my worst enemy so like I always try to impress me. (Durban-KwaMashu 9)

As touched upon above, enemies serve an important role in negatively defining the spaces and ideas that participants use in understanding themselves, including their understandings and performance of violence-related norms. Violence itself is in some sense defined by the relationship that some of the participants had both with their enemies and friends, but also in the manner that these two social groups had impacted on their ideas and choices. There may be then an ontological dimension to participants’ understandings of an enemy, as can be seen in a response by another participant:

Well these things of enemy it is someone who has betrayed you, it is someone who has a problem your blood and his don’t clash. Enemy can also be your friend they betray you and if they betray me it is over. (Durban-KwaMashu 2)

One participant, for instance, also linked the concerns he had with those he understood to be his enemies to his choices of clothing. Such linkages are important in both showing the intersectional nature of the codes more generally, but also in exhibiting the complexity and nuances of participants’ world views. Such nuance is important to note, especially in the South African context, for often poverty is understood normatively, so as to generalize and homogenize diverse communities simply under the rubric of “poor”. As he noted:

An enemy is the person, the one who sees you on the road and has negative things to say about you, for example he would make a nasty comment about my skinny jean. I am sorry to bring back the issue of skinny jean. So even I change to another one, this person would still have nothing positive to say. You find that when I am at fault, again this person is the one who will judge me first and go around telling everybody what I have done. That person, that whether you do good or bad, you always look bad to them, which is what I consider an enemy. (Durban-KwaMashu 5)

Perhaps then, considering the centrality that enemies play as a negative of that which participants understood to be enabling, some believed that the best way of transcending the impact that enemies may have on their lives is through their negation. As two participants separately noted:

An enemy you guys have completely different views from me we would, you are an enemy to me I do not like you, you don’t like me so it’s like that a completely different views is an enemy because you have nothing to share nothing absolutely nothing. (Durban-KwaMashu 10)

I have a lot of them, enemies, people whom you see clearly that they do not want you. Some of the would even tell your straight in the face that thy do not like you. (Durban-KwaMashu 2)

Similarities: In all contexts, an enemy was described as someone who works against the social reputation of an individual, or which utilizes their close ties to undermine others in surreptitious ways. They are as such not generally seen as complete outsiders, but those who can utilize their social ties with individuals and groups to hurt or undermine the group from the inside. With this operating as a platform, it is not necessarily an opponent in a physical fight, more a social rival who acts with a hidden agenda. While this may seem somewhat astonishing, it is clearly a logical consequence of the concept of respect and the way to accumulate it. It is not a shame to lose in a fight, as long a male juvenile stands his ground, but having a reputation as weak, cowardly or dishonest can cause serious damage to the important social individual image. Those who build up such a negative image through lies or as a result of undermining others are seen as enemies. Interestingly, violence is not always the way how to deal with an enemy; social strategies, like ignoring or undermine the social reputation of an enemy are accepted strategies. Furthermore, the enemy is conventionalized as the opposite of a friend, which is described as a loyal and trustful person. However, also friends are mistrusted and seen as possible competition, e.g., by attracting women.

Differences: The role of families in the way an enemy is conventionalized differs between the contexts. In Pakistan, an enemy undermines the reputation of the opponent family as well, but this is not true for Germany and South Africa. However, the reason for this is the fundamental difference in the organization of this community and family than what Anderson describes in the US context. So too the binary roles of decent and street are not developed in the same way as proposed by Anderson. Also, the role of friends in shaping an enemy differs between the contexts. Observable is that someone could become an enemy simply because s/he is the enemy of a friend. Also, friends can become enemies, e.g., when they “take” the girlfriend of a friend. Therefore, friends are also a source of mistrust and a potential social threat.

9.4.7 Reflection of the Shape of the Code of the Street

The analysis of the core elements of the street code, enrolled on the individual perception, has brought similarities and differences to the original work about code of the street on the one hand, but shown also differences between the countries, we did research in. Looking at the broader picture, the findings suggest, that the construction of a street code and its shape differs highly between the countries. The differences compared to the work of Anderson are so significant, that we cannot see, that the theoretical approach of the code of the street, with it the causal assumption how the elements are connected to each other and which role violence plays (Chap.  3), can be maintained, if its claimed as a general theory about street violence in risky neighborhoods. But this theoretical reflection will be done more in detail in Chap.  11. Next, we want to discuss if the outcome of the code, the perception of violence, differs between the contexts.

9.5 Consequences of the Code of the Street for Male Juveniles from a Comparative Perspective

9.5.1 Comparison of Violence Perception

In inner city neighborhoods, the poverty and mistrust among people result in violence as a way of public life “which is effectively governed by the code of the street” (Anderson 1999). Moreover, street fights, drug use and sale, and harsh police activities are part of normal life. The diverse neighborhood ecologies and household violence experience by young people affirm their perception of the prevalence of violence throughout the community. Many of the respondents reported similar situations in their neighborhoods and described fighting and fist fights as an everyday routine. Moreover, the participants mentioned that violence is an effective way of dealing with everyday matters in the neighborhoods.

  • Germany

It is important to note that even the extremes in the German neighborhoods in the sample do not have the same level of violence as those in Pakistan or South Africa. But in the perception of the respondents, all neighborhoods are a threatening environment to which they have to react. From this perspective, we expect that the relational position of a neighborhood within a given context shapes the violence-related norms. Altogether, the sample of the neighborhoods and responses will allow a comparison of the violence-related norms of male juveniles in risky neighborhoods with those in Pakistan and South Africa to find out if the code of the street is a global concept and which norms are equal among all cases. The adolescents are well aware of high levels of street activities, including street brawls, drug activities, and police discrimination in their neighborhoods. The neighborhood’s image and discrimination purely due to geography are important themes of narration of the young participants. A neighborhood’s disorder and street violence are viewed as routine. Young men from Marxloh described the situation in their neighborhood as follows:

Yes okay, it is normal that some windows or so break, accidently, or some brawl in school, Marxloh. (Duisburg-Marxloh 5)

Violence? When you punch someone, or hit someone with a stick. It hasn’t happened in our group, but for example with a stick, knuckleduster, such, such things. If you hit him really hard, he falls down on the ground, but you still hit him, you have no mercy. (Duisburg-Marxloh 4)

[…] then, at the fair, at the fair somehow I had a fight or something. Like it is common among adolescents. Unfortunately. And yes. Once I had a fight, I think it was in April, Easter, Easter break. At that time. Yes and I saw my brother, he also saw that I was fighting. But he did nothing. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 6)

The above excerpts depict the image of the neighborhood and everyday activities. In schools and other public places, a fight is considered as routine activity. Similar to these storylines, other adolescents reported different episodes of violence in their neighborhoods. In this milieu, violence is a commonplace means to settle matters. In various situations, youths tried to avoid engaging in violent acts immediately, to avoid escalating the situation. However, disrespect is countered with violence. As mentioned earlier, young people see violence as instrumental to avoid victimization and disrespect. As such, they frequently attempt to retaliate against any act of disrespect on the street.

  • Pakistan

Violence is an integral part of the lifestyle in the risky urban neighborhoods of Pakistan, but violence is not limited to street life. It is also part of the daily life at home, school, and even in the college and educational institutions in the form of violent student unions and violent fights among the students. It is considered as an essential part of the street code and also a part of daily life. It is considered that violence, drugs, and the struggle for girls are an important characteristic of the urban slums of Pakistan. Violence seems to be the dominant characteristic of urban neighborhoods. Adolescents believe that violence is the way to get what they are entitled to, show dominance, control the power dynamics, exercise power and dominance, and obtain honor and respect from the community. Those who are violent and aggressive receive higher levels of respect and honor. Those who are cowardly have low social value. Even the perception of violence is important to understand its deeper meaning in the life of male juveniles in risky neighborhoods. Obviously, violence is more as a physical act, it becomes a symbolic currency at the street. An adolescent defined violence as follows:

Disrespecting others, teasing someone without any reason, killing or torturing someone are all examples of violence. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)

The above definition of the violence was very common among the interview partners. Similarly, another respondent intimated that violence lay both in harboring unreasonable expectations as well as in the killing of a person. He told a story of violence:

Beating, teasing or killing someone without any reason all comes under violence. Few days ago, in our neighbor some guys came and they beat an older man here, when we came to know that we all came to his aid but till that time those guys had run away. After investigating we came to know that this old man had to pay some debt of those people but due to his poor socio-economic conditions he was unable to pay back the loan. This was also a kind of violence, a poor person who has no source of income, was beaten by those cowards. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 26)

Some respondents limited the definition of violence to discounting other forms of violence as part of the definition. However, another respondent mentioned physical, emotional, and mental disturbance as violence. He reported:

Any act which could harm a human being is violence, whether the harm is mental, emotional or physical. Though sometimes it becomes necessary to use violence for own defense but not in any other case. Bothering someone without any reason, poking nose in other peoples’ business and fighting and beating others all are examples of violence. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 2)

The adolescents believed that violence is the means to gain different objectives, even such as gaining dominance and scoring a victory over others in sport. A respondent shared his experiences of violent activities in sports.

Sometimes violence becomes necessary for you, as once few guys started fighting with our friends during a cricket match. They were in majority and tortured our friends very badly. When we became aware of it we planned and after few days we captured few of those guys and gave them beating of their life. We might be having fights and experiences of violence but I never raised a hand on an elder person neither on a female. I also avoid making any trouble with children […] In our neighborhood most of our peers are violent and are involved in violence in one way or the other. Therefore, it is very necessary for us to look tough and hard in order to avoid possible victimization as if I look very innocent, I might be considered as an easy target by other guys and no one will be afraid of me. Respect is given to a guy who is more tough and aggressive. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 26)

It was visible from the data that violent behavior happens in the family too. Fights among family members or parents’ punishment of their children are frequent. But parents only punish the deviancy of their children and children are expected to accept parental punishment. Common too was corporal punishment in school. Thus, the violence seems an integral part of daily life in risky urban neighborhoods. A respondent stated:

Sometimes family matters also cause violence in our neighborhood, issues over property which become cause of enmities among families and households. These days issues related to girls have become a major reason for violence, as these days, boys and girls are both very hot (garam) who then cause contentions for their families. (Islamabad-France Colony 16)

When violence is used, people do not only fight bodily with each other, but also use weapons. Weapons mentioned included pistols, Kalashnikov rifles, knives, and knuckle-dusters. A respondent asked about weapons said:

Yes, I can use pistol, Kalashnikov, these are at home. I don’t take them outside with me because when you have such weapon there is more chance to use it because we mostly indulge in unforeseen problems. And if I ended up using it, I am going to have to spend the whole life in jail. I might commit some murder so that’s why it is better to keep them at home […] Keeping in view the situation of our neighborhood we have to show some violence in some cases to gain reputation and respect among our peers. If I do not respond to a violent act for my friend or anyone else, I will then become an easy target in future as well. Nobody will then be afraid of me so therefore it is necessary to react violently in order to gain respect from others. However, I am against of raising hand on women, children or elders. I never did this neither. I allow any of my friends to do so. I don’t even help anyone do that. I try to help the women and elders as much as I can if they are in trouble. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)

Adolescents in the risky urban neighborhood used knuckle-dusters to fight with each other as well to fight with the opponents. As a respondent mentioned:

Punch is used mostly. Punch is used on fingers. It is dangerous because the injury from punch does not recover or heal soon. So, once it is used, then the injuries remain for a long period of time. Along with punch, stick is also used. Even pistols are used. But all the boys in different groups do not have pistols and it is difficult to use. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 21)

Another respondent argued:

We do not use any specific kind of weapon. At the time of conflicts everything is used that comes handy. Rods/Cudgels are mostly used. Some people use punches which is worn around the fingers and it makes severe injury when used. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 22)

It is not true that all adolescents in the risky urban neighborhoods of Pakistan are violent. Those who are involved in violent activities become used to violence. Nevertheless, there was a huge population which was nonviolent. A young respondent reported:

I am personally against all types of violence. Violence is violence, there is no normality in it, though there are sometimes and moments in which you have to become violent for your dignity and honor but it’s better to avoid it anyhow. And I personally consider violence against females, elders and children as an act of coward. A man with honor and dignity will never raise his hand on children, elders and females. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 1)

Violence is one of the dominant codes of the street in the risky urban neighborhoods of Pakistan. Deviant adolescents particularly were active participants in violent activities, using different kinds of weapons to fight with each other and in fights against their enemies. They were perpetuators as well as victims of violence.

  • South Africa

Violence, and the norms which provide a means of expressing, condoning and/or condemning it remains a central feature of the book. The South African example, at least with reference to an extensive list of publications and reports, has the highest levels of violence amongst the countries compared here, and indeed some of the highest levels of violence in the world. By this measure then, one would expect to find an implicit acceptance of violence, and in which the norms authorizing the use of violence are so deeply ingrained in the practices of young men that its use is widely accepted. While there was some evidence for the former, there is also evidence pointing to the participants having far more complex understandings of violence than belied by such reports. Indeed, as documented below, many of the participants understood violence in both a moral and pragmatic framework, in which its selective use may be a necessary but a problematic tool by which to articulate and perform an identity in the contemporary. Participants’ understandings of violence spanned a spectrum, ranging from physical confrontations and the use of weapons, to conceptual and symbolic understandings that are as much structural as interpersonal. Importantly, they also recognized that violence is not limited to physical forms but can be emotional as well. As one noted:

Violence, I can say it’s a situation, which happens. It may happen between two people or many people. Violence can be verbal argument and sometimes it gets physical. That is what I could call violence. You find that sometimes a person responds to you with very heavy words or painful. I can call that violence. It also includes beating up a person, that’s violence, especially when there is no need. (Durban-KwaMashu 5)

Another, more explicitly, argued that systematic forms of violence are in essence a form of abuse, and that this can be transmitted through emotional pathways:

Violence is to do something that does not sit well nor treat that person well, you might be doing it in a form of hitting them physical abuse, or maybe even emotional abuse or even say things that will hurt that person that is violence, insulting etc. (Durban-KwaMashu 6)

It is important to highlight participants’ recognition of the wide range and forms that violence may and can take, for such a recognition stands in contrast to the pervasiveness of reports that characterize South Africa’s violence in physical terms. The participants’ understandings of violence, in short, were more nuanced than many of the reports. Violence, moreover, was seen by some not as an easily-accepted feature of their lives, but as a last resort or extreme response to the pervasive and explicit actions of those around them. The participant quoted previously continued, in answering whether they would use violence as a means of responding to specific confrontations or situations:

Yes, so you can show that person that what they are doing you don’t like and appreciate them doing it, but you need to first sit down with that person and talk to them and them that person and warn him or her but if he or she continues then all hell will break loose if that person does not understand. (Durban-KwaMashu 6)

Violence is of course embedded into the fabric of many South African communities, both as a function of the past and as a product of continued governance concerns. That it is a feature of these communities does not however make it the sole or perhaps even central feature, beyond of course the structural violence that is built into the walls of the architecture itself. As one participant noted:

Violence for me is not important because it happens that you get in a new environment and you find people you don’t know people you not sure what their personalities are which in most cases if you do not know someone you might say something they don’t like about anything in general and that might end up in a violent manner, other form of violence is being mugged is also part of it, you might get attacked where someone just stabs you, shoot you or even kidnap you that is violence. (Durban-KwaMashu 7)

Another participant explicitly noted that they did not enjoy or condone the use of violence, and strongly rejected the understanding that violence had become normalized in the lives and actions of the young men that lived in the community with him. As he noted:

Nah I don’t do violence it’s not cool I don’t get it I don’t understand how stupid you have to be in order for you to be like have to make someone else feel bad just so you can feel good, because that what is it at the end of the day you hurting someone to feel good it’s stupid really stupid. (Durban-KwaMashu 10)

This being said, violence can also be symbolically used, both as emblematic of reputation but also as a currency by which to further the aims of an individual or group. As such, in instances where violence is normalized both environmentally and personally, it can itself become a potent form of cultural capital, and thus selectively deployed as a “taste” that may be advantageous. Perhaps, this is implicitly recognized more broadly in the idea of a “taste for violence”. Perhaps one of the most revealing of responses can be seen in the answer by a participant who simultaneously seems unaware of, yet acknowledges the role of power and its relationship with violence. They are, in short, aware of the moral dimensions related to the use of violence, but equally, understand its efficacy and symbolic purpose as a form of domination. As they touched upon:

That’s violence. Whereas if you call an older person who can assist in sorting the problem out even before people can test each other’s power. (Durban-KwaMashu 2)

Furthering this, another participant contrasted violence and its use with intelligence and wisdom, noting that:

I think violence is dumb you behaving like a cave man. (Durban-KwaMashu 9)

This was supported by the comments of another participant from the same site who noted that:

It’s not important at all because it does not fix anything in life. You have to talk nicely with people so that you can be able to solve all the problems you have and not be violent. Violence is not important. (Durban-KwaMashu 5)

They further added that they also employed mitigating measures or practices to diffuse both their own responses to violence and any violent confrontations. As they describe:

Its either I go and smoke depending on how angry I am I smoke a lot of weed and also meditate. (Durban-KwaMashu 9)

Such measures can, however, be easily contrasted with the following comment by a participant, which provides an uneasy summary of the contrasting positions expressed by the participants. In answer whether they liked or loathed violence, they noted that:

I’m pretty ok with it. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 7)

Similarities: In all contexts, violence has been defined as a physical and social issue. Furthermore, it is a part of daily life and all juveniles struggle with it, but to a different degree, ranging from a relatively peaceful German context, to a highly violent one in South Africa. However, even if violence is a normal part of daily life, it is perceived as an alienated normality and a peaceful way of life is preferred. So, violence is a tool to respond to threats from the environment, but by doing this, juveniles contribute to the very threat they try to keep at bay. Also, violence is not a way to gain respect, but a show of force.

Differences: In Pakistan and South Africa, violence is a social currency, which helps to get things done, which is not true for Germany. This is a significant difference, which shows that the code of the street has different outcomes, depending on the context where it has been analyzed. Furthermore, families are a source of violence in Pakistan in particular. This was not mentioned in Germany or South Africa in the same way.

9.5.2 Reflection of the Consequences of the Code of the Street

Our assumption was that the outcome of the street code would be more or less similar, even if the shape of the code itself differs between the countries in similar spatial frameworks. But the results are different, especially between Germany on the one hand and South Africa and Pakistan on the other. Violence there is a social currency and a guarantee that things will be done. So, it is embedded in everyday life and also connected to the reputation of the family, by holding up traditional values. Again, the difference between the countries is too significant to come to the conclusion that the code of the street, as Anderson proposed, based on findings of an ethnographical analysis in the US, operates equally in different contexts.

9.6 Conclusion of the Cross-Cultural Comparison About the Code of the Street

Altogether, the cross-cultural comparison about the core elements of the code of the street showed similarities and differences toward the original work, which will receive theoretical reflection in Chap.  11. Furthermore, street codes are constructed in all countries, even the shape differs, but violence is an outcome by all. However, the level and perception of violence differ between the contexts. Nevertheless, our cross-cultural comparison brought more results than those which focus on the code of the street alone. These findings provide an insight into different, but sometimes also equal, lifeworlds of male juveniles in risky neighborhoods in different countries. The findings are discussed in the next chapter.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Howell
    • 1
  • Sebastian Kurtenbach
    • 2
  • Abdul Rauf
    • 3
  • Muhammad Zaman
    • 4
    • 5
  • Steffen Zdun
    • 6
  1. 1.Institute of CriminologyUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Social WorkUniversity of Applied Sciences MünsterMünsterGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and ViolenceBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany
  4. 4.Department of SociologyQuaid-I-Azam UniversityIslamabadPakistan
  5. 5.Institute of Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and ViolenceBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany
  6. 6.Institute of Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and ViolenceBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany

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