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Research: Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs – Mark Lauchs

Assoc Prof Mark Lauchs has published an article in the Asian Journal of Criminology entitled:

A survey of the rise of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs in East Asia

Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMCG) have been growing in almost every nation in the world. Men across the world are forming new clubs using the Hells Angels’ model of outlaw clubs. East Asia is seeing exponential growth of clubs and the arrival of foreign clubs. But these events are not uniform across the region.

Motorcycle riding culture has always been strong in the region as they provided an affordable means of transport. As wealth grew, many people shifted to using cars and the riding of motorcycles increasingly became a past-time instead of a necessity. Like other regions of the world, the motorcycle culture included a continuum of riders from occasional social participants to the more committed and focused clubs. There were even local variations including the Waanz Boys in Vietnam and the Bosozuku in Japan.

The ‘elite’ of the continuum are the Outlaw Clubs who strictly control the criteria of appearance and which clubs can share the mantle. Members of these clubs make the club and their colleagues the primary focus of their lives, with jobs and family becoming ancillary to the needs of the brotherhood of members. Clubs note in their histories that they wanted to be seen as serious bikers as opposed to part-time posers.

It is strange that a very American model of social deviance could become popular in the communitarian cultures of East Asia. It may be that there is an appeal to a universal type of hyper-masculinity shared by a small minority of men in every culture. Given the history of club involvement in serious crimes, the expansion of the culture also presents the possibility of local adoption of the criminogenic culture of Western OMCG.

This paper tracked the rise of new locally formed clubs in each nation of East Asia well as the arrival of international clubs with chapters in the region. It compared club growth to GDP per capita, the Gender Inequality Index and authoritarianism of governments, to determine if there were correlations. The study found 310 locally formed clubs in East Asia, most of which have formed in the last two decades.

The paper also discusses the arrival of imperialist international clubs including the Bandidos, Hells Angels and Outlaws. Each has co-opted smaller local clubs under their control and established new support clubs in the region. Locally formed clubs are following this path as well, setting up chapters in other nations, not just in East Asia, but Europe and the USA.

This paper is a contribution to a larger project mapping the growth of clubs around the world.  Other research in the project can be seen in Researchgate.

A link to the paper can be found here:

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