In contexts of insecurity and inequality across the world, criminal groups have developed into powerful, state-like organizations. Marginalized citizens in search of protection and support may look to criminal leaders, gangs and mafias rather than to politicians and state agencies. Providing residents with forms of social welfare, security and resolutions for dispute, these criminal organizations have taken on the functions and symbols of the state.
But criminals’ positions of power are not only rooted in their social provisioning role, or even in the use of fear and force. Most Wanted illustrates how popular culture is producing the socio-political authority of bosses, gangs and cartels through discussions of Italian, Japanese and Russian mafias, and of criminal groups in Brazil, Ghana, Jamaica, and the United States. The essays collected here analyze different forms of visual, material and performative culture, including street art, film, video games, dance parties, popular music and various everyday objects.