This paper examines microsocial contexts of violent and nonviolent dispute-related incidents involving gang members. Data consist of reports of field observations of twelve black and eight white youth street gangs in Chicago between 1959 and 1962. Dispute-related incidents (N = 2,637) were classified according to three primary pretexts: normative or order violations, identity attacks and retaliation. Findings show that disputes associated with each of these generally unfolded consistently with expectations based on the extent to which status concerns were likely to be outweighed by such situational constraints as a close relationship between disputants and audience intervention. We suggest that understanding violence in the gang context will be enhanced greatly by further consideration of the microsocial level of explanation and linkages to its macro- and individual-level counterparts.