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Who kills?: social influence, spatial opportunity, and participation in inter-group violence

By Omar McDoom


In episodes of collective violence between groups, which group members participate and which do not? Extant scholarship on individual participation in inter-group violence emphasizes dispositional susceptibilities: young, male, alienated, deprived, ethnocentric. This paper, however, finds that micro-situational opportunities also mediate selection into violence. In particular it highlights spatial factors. Using data on 2557 residents from one community in Rwanda, I map the household locations of participants, non-participants, and victims of Rwanda’s genocide. I test two hypotheses. First, whether ‘accessibility’ – the ease with which an individual could access the site of violence – shaped participation. Second, whether ‘social influence’ – the ability to induce an individual to join in – mattered. I find support for the influence mechanism. Specifically, participants are more likely than non-participants to live both in the same household as and within close proximity of other perpetrators. These household and neighbourhood effects point to the existence of micro-spheres of influence

Topics: HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Publisher: The London School of Economics and Political Science
Year: 2011
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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