The chapter explores the conception of being ‘on-road’ as a gendered space, with historical antecedents. It explores the intersection of race and gender politics in early modern Britain, specifically the interwar period, which informed early youth penal reform. The analysis draws on documentary research from the Liverpool University Archives. In historicising and gendering the ‘on-road’ existence in this way, the chapter emphasises the importance of conceptual approaches expanding the explanatory scope about racialised youth’s contemporary contested positioning, beyond the customary suturing to crime and punishment. Historicising and gendering the logic of ‘the road’ enables exploration of racialised youth’s circumstances as part of a historic exclusion from the resources and opportunities associated with early modern justice reform.
This chapter is written as three sets of reflections by the editors on the preceding collection and the next steps for on-road scholarship. The editors each reflect on the aspects of the collection which speak most to them and our own work, and most importantly, what the next steps are for this field of study and what questions need to be further posed and answered. Levell’s section focuses on the use of feminist theory to understand subjectivity, relationality, love and community in the collection. She argues that this humanised previously stigmatised young people. Young looks at the contentions that result from the over-focus on gangs, including enhanced racial discrimination and over-policing. Earle weaves in his own journey to on-road scholarship with reflections on the chapters, and the undercurrents of music, inequality, Whiteness, racial capitalism, and the desire to see beyond youth criminality and instead focusing on the richness of their lives.
This chapter presents a reflexive account of an ‘on-road’ criminologist who has operated both in prisons and the streets for over four decades. The ‘on-road’ criminologist inhabits the world of his/her research participants. ‘On-road’ dialogue takes place in shopping centres, barbershops, bookies, car parks, street corners and other locations within the confines of the inner cities. In light of the proliferation of ‘county lines’, violence during the (COVID-19) lockdown and the growing sophistication of the digital space, ‘on-road’ criminological research is a vital component in the way we understand the changing nature of our inner cities, which moves beyond the traditional ethnographic encounter. The author argues that a critical aspect of being an ‘on-road’ researcher is in the sociocultural identification and articulation of ‘political Blackness’. Blackness centres on the understanding of the history of Black oppression and subordination, combined with acquiring the psychic tools and ability to transcend its impacts. Central to the proposition therefore laid out in this chapter is the way the narrative of the ‘on-road’ criminologist is produced and produces change within our understanding of inner-city life and the wider criminal justice system.
‘On-road’ is a complex term used by young people to describe street-based subculture and a general way of being. Featuring the voices of young people, this collection explores how race, class and gender dynamics shape this aspect of youth culture.
With young people on-road often becoming criminalised due to interlocking structural inequalities, this book looks beyond concerns about gangs and presents empirical research from scholars and activists who work with and study the social lives of young people. It addresses the concerns of practitioners, policy makers and scholars by analysing aspects and misinterpretations of the shifting realities of young people’s urban life.
This chapter outlines a conceptual framework for understanding the relationship between male adult youth work professionals characterised, or as I shall argue, positioned, as ‘role models’ and young men positioned as ‘roadmen’. It begins with a critique of social policy that promotes male role models for young men in the UK, as it relates to both formal and informal education settings. It then sets out a theoretical perspective on masculine subjectivities using positioning and psychosocial theory and highlights some implications for our understanding of relationships between male youth professionals and young men. Using a closely observed case study of a young Black man and his older White male youth worker, the author argues that male youth workers seeking to proffer alternative ‘roads’ for younger men need to develop a deep, reflexive awareness of their own and young men’s identity constructions. The chapter concludes that social policy making and professional training regimes may need to be more acutely attuned to the complexity of these professional relationships.
The opening chapter sets out the main objectives of the book and its subject matter. This will include a preliminary discussion of the animating concept of on-road and the origins of the editors’ interests in this field of study. The chapter will outline the importance of intersectional approaches that build on Black feminism’s insistence on focusing on the co-constitutive features of race, gender and class. The chapter will include brief discussion of critical race theory, gender theory and the class stratification in racialised capitalism. These will be linked to the empirical work around youth and young people’s lives in the UK, with an argument for raising the profile of more explicitly gendered perspectives in research on young men and young women’s lives. The chapter outlines the structure of the book and its constitutive chapters.
This chapter aims explore the resemblances between Albanian ‘street life’ (jeta e rrugës) with life on-road in the United Kingdom. The salience of this proposed comparison is that the young people who took part in the research in Albania discussed being literally ‘on the roads’ as they experience international migration in adolescence, much of which involved journeys on both sides of the law in the respective countries. In drawing the comparisons between the hustle of the international ‘street life’ (jeta e rrugës) experienced by Albanian young people and the life ‘on-road’, we propose that some live the translocal on-road hustle. This chapter draws on original research findings derived from life-story interviews using music elicitation with young men in prisons and under probation supervision in the community. The authors conclude that the transnational aspect of Albanian street life is what distinguishes it from the UK on-road, which is conceptualised as more geographically localised.
This chapter seeks to examine the ways in which on-road culture occurs within the prison, exploring especially the ways in which the boundaries between prison and road are traversed and blurred by young people. This chapter explores the ways in which music forms cultural spaces of continuity between road and prison. By drawing on research looking at music in a local prison in Greater London the chapter seeks to explore the ways in which on-road culture is both adapted and imported into the prison. The chapter considers the cultural geography of the prison and the ways in which music provides both connection to the outside as well as a means of undertaking forms of problem-solving and identity construction. The chapter considers the importance of this spatio-cultural continuity between prison and road within on-road culture.
UK drill music routinely features in the nation’s courtrooms as evidence of criminal wrongdoing, owing to the graphic imagery of the genre’s lyrical and video content. Such a response may seem justified, due to fatal incidents associated with drill music, but it remains difficult to prove a direct link between drill lyrics or videos and the evidential facts of criminal offences. Beyond speculation and interpretation, relying on drill music to bring criminal charges against individuals not only turns music-making into a criminal offence. It also exposes prosecutorial tactics that fail to uphold high standards of evidence and reproduce racist stereotypes about Black music genres and ‘criminality’. Drawing on my ongoing involvement as an expert witness in court cases that translate drill lyrics and videos into incriminating evidence, this chapter challenges the admissibility of such evidence as factually inaccurate to prove guilt – arguing that putting drill on trial conflates the literary and the literal, risking prejudicial assumptions about an art form, its producers and audiences.
This chapter explores narratives of sexual relations on-road. Using a lens of feminist theory to argue that the ‘personal is political’, this chapter draws attention to men’s experiences of sexual lives on-road. This chapter brings together Connell’s masculinity theory with feminist theory and apply it to narratives of life on-road. It also looks to the racialisation and sexualisation of Black young men’s bodies within a heteronormative context, and how together this dynamic has limited Black men on-road for finding a space and a voice to talk about their own non-consensual, exploitative, abusive or transactional sexual experiences. This chapter argues that Black men on-road have inherited a gender trauma, which, using an intersectional lens, is tied up with gender, race and class (and the stigma of criminality) and so it is imperative to open up a space to allow for vulnerabilities and a deepened understanding of sexual politics.