Alien Conspiracy Theory and Street Gangs

Louis Kontos, John Jay College (CUNY)

The Trump administration has redrawn the boundaries between normatively acceptable conservatism and authoritarianism with regard to the question of public order and safety; and between conservatism and nativism with regard to the topic of immigration. The imaginary community in this scenario is not the ‘land of immigrants’, but instead of European immigrants. The past is rewritten around the claim that earlier immigrants assimilated without trouble and experienced collective upward mobility as a result of hard work; unlike the newer immigrants who supposedly seek to change the common culture, or seek to live without working, or seek criminal opportunity, or worse. In this scenario, the descendants of earlier immigrants are invited to look at themselves as real Americans against others who are imagined to be disloyal or who simply hate the country. The shrill rhetoric of the Trump administration about street gangs targets an audience that is conservative only in the sense that it wants to conserve an imaginary community by keeping out the other. The nativist turn in the war on gangs is not only a product of the authoritarian populism of the Trump administration, but also among its primary sources of support.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 101. Regulating Criminal Bodies I