Understanding collective violence: the communicative and performative qualities of violence in acts of belonging

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This chapter explores the motivations for joining violent groups across arange of circumstances. In particular, the chapter will explore the similarities in the role of violence as a marker of identity within groups as diverseas street gangs and ethnic communities. Frequently, membership inviolent groups is explained in terms of individual material gain or theattainment of individual fame, in very rationalist and individualistic terms.This focus on individual choice and motivation suggests the use or disinclination to use violence is an expression of individual agency. Indeed, many of studies on civil wars or other armed conflicts treat joining these violent groups and the participation in violent acts as being anti-social, as if the choice to engage in violence is one wholly against social norms or social values. However, much can be gained by seeing these groups in completely the opposite light: gangs, communal factions, militias, even terrorist organisations can be seen as highly social environments. This chapter will examine the performative qualities of violence and the role that violence plays in the experience of belonging in large groups and in collective identity formation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCriminological approaches to international criminal law
EditorsIlias Bantekas, Emmanouela Mylonaki
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic) 9781107446700
ISBN (Print)9781107060036
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


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