Gangster, victim, or both?
Department of Sociology University of Bergen Bergen, Norway
In this paper, I conceptualize two contradictory discourses, both used by ethnic minority drug dealers in a street drug market in Oslo, Norway. Oppression discourse includes personal narratives of unemployment, racism and psychosocial problems, often combined with stories about the government and city council being unwilling to help. Drug dealers use the discourse to justify drug dealing and violence, both in self-talk and in meetings with welfare organizations. Gangster discourse, on the other hand, includes a series of personal narratives emphasizing how hard, smart, and sexually alluring the young men are. Drug dealers use this discourse to gain self-respect and respect from others, and it dominates interactions on the street. An important argument in this paper is that the discursive practice of criminals inspires theoretical perspectives on criminal practice. Oppression and gangster discourses have inspired, respectively, neutralization and subculture theory. When the same people use both discourses, however, the picture becomes more complicated. This interdiscursivity may have been sacrificed in previous research to produce more coherent theoretical frameworks. Most importantly however, the ?bilingual? discursive practice reflects a Scandinavian institutional and social context where street drug dealers have extensive contact with a welfare state apparatus.