Event Structures and Violent Outcomes

Derek Bowen, University of New Hampshire

Sociological explanations of violence often focus on uncovering factors that make one social group more violent than another. Such explanations assume that violent events, fights for instance, occur as a direct result of a group's proclivity to violence. In contrast, recent theorizing in both sociology and criminology has recast the violent event as a social interaction structured by the relationships between the parties involved. In order to examine how the relationship structure of an event might promote or mediate violence, I used qualitative interview data from 32 in-depth, face-to-face interviews with current and former racist skinheads in the eastern United States and in eastern Canada. The subjects in the sample were, or had been, members of five separate skinhead gangs. Detailed accounts of conflicts were used to create models of events with violent outcomes and events with nonviolent outcomes. By comparing across cases, I was able to identify some relationship structures that seemed to mediate violence and others that seemed to promote violent outcomes.

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Updated 05/20/2006