Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Urban Studies


School of Urban and Regional Studies

Major Professor

Pamela Jenkins

Second Advisor

Bethany Stich

Third Advisor

David L. Gladstone

Fourth Advisor

Peter Scharf


New Orleans experienced elevated homicide rates throughout the 30 years between 1985 and 2015. The city’s homicides were especially prominent in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. This study explored the lived experiences of residents from one such neighborhood, Hollygrove. Using qualitative methods of individual interviews, focus groups, and participant observation, the study explored homicide through three prominent theoretical lenses, Social Disorganization Theory, Subcultural theories, and Institutional Anomie Theory, to better understand the conditions in a high-homicide neighborhood that help to explain neighborhood-level violence. While existing theories of homicide causation have taken a predominately quantitative approach that compare high-homicide neighborhoods, I took an ethnographic approach informed by a social constructivist paradigm to test existing theories against the lived experiences of those whose daily lives were impacted by neighborhood-level homicide in a single community. Interviews were conducted with neighborhood residents, community leaders, neighborhood politicians, and police officials.

The data indicated three conditions connected to high- or low-homicide risk in the community. The neighborhood’s values-orientation moved between subcultural values and prosocial values. Structural conditions in the community shifted between marginalization and enhanced social capital. Finally, neighborhood boundaries were found to vacillate between porous and rigidly defensive. Each of these conditions impacted the neighborhood’s ability to enact collective efficacy and to create a milieu that either resisted or enhanced the likelihood of homicide. While none of the existing theories was sufficient to explain neighborhood homicide, elements of each were present in the data.


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