Jean Beaman presents some of her research into race and police violence, and the response to such violence, in France. Explicitly putting recent French incidents and patterns in comparative perspective with those involving law enforcement and African Americans in the United States, Beaman finds some similarities and many differences in how social mobilization against police violence is framed and carried out. In particular, she focuses on how French republicanism makes it more difficult to organize around claims based on the status of marginalized social identities (black, Muslim) as compared to the role played by BlackLivesMatter in the United States.
conflict and violence
Aliza Luft tackles a question essential for social science and for human rights work—how, and how much, does dehumanizing propaganda spread by planners of genocide affect the “foot soldiers” of mass killings? Drawing on her own research on Rwanda as well as the Holocaust and other cases, Luft argues that the effects of pronouncements that describe potential victims as nonhuman or animals needs to be considered alongside other potential factors that motivate ordinary people to kill, and that the impact of such language is rarely straightforward. Luft concludes that “dehumanizing discourse can pave the way for violence to occur, but violence does not require it.”
In his “Understanding Gun Violence” series contribution, Jooyoung Lee poses the question: “What might gun violence research look like if we centered our analysis on victims?” In addressing the matter, he focuses on ethnographic approaches and the concept of “social loss” that extends beyond individual victims to a whole range of effects on families and neighborhoods. Drawing on his own extensive research in Philadelphia, Lee engages with victims as they move from the hospital to their homes and communities. In one instance, the connection between pain management due to gun violence and the opioid crisis becomes clear.
In the latest essay in our “Understanding Gun Violence” series, Laurence Ralph turns our attention to how shooting victims, and their communities, live with the consequences of gun violence in inner cities. Ralph brings the series to a focus on the “normalization—or taken-for-granted quality—of urban violence,” especially via guns. Through the story of a disabled resident of Chicago who, in the wake of his participation in gangs, takes on the mission of reducing recourse to guns in his neighborhood, the essay provides a lens onto the oft-neglected dimensions of race, poverty, and what the author calls the “crippling currency of obligation” among gang members.
Nina Vinik’s contribution to the “Understanding Gun Violence” series highlights the importance of research that engages with gun owners and users. Drawing on recent research supported by her program at the Joyce Foundation, and other findings, Vinik calls attention to two key dimensions of gun violence: guns in the home and suicides, and illegal guns and homicides. In both cases, deeper knowledge of why people own guns and their perceptions (and misperceptions) about risk and safety can inform approaches to reducing death and injury.
Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig add their voices to the "Understanding Gun Violence" series on the importance of gun violence research to include, but go beyond a public health framing. In their essay, they focus on criminal justice approaches to firearms, and argue for deeper attention to the role of policing in preventing the “criminal misuse of guns.” Drawing on historical knowledge and recent research in Chicago, Cook and Ludwig show the importance of having adequate investigative personnel in police forces and explore how research into clearance rates and community-police relations could inform criminal justice policies to reduce gun violence.
Jennifer Carlson’s contribution to our “Understanding Gun Violence” series discusses why it is essential for a broad range of social science approaches to work on the question of gun violence, and how the topic itself can deepen social science concepts and questions. Focusing on sociology, Carlson brings the analytical lenses of masculinity and race to understand gun ownership under shifting socioeconomic conditions. She also shows how a research focus on private gun ownership can complicate classic sociological debates around the nature of the state and its purported monopoly on legitimate force.
In this new essay, Stuart Schrader traces the arc of US security assistance to Latin America from the late nineteenth century to the present, and finds deep continuities amid the policy changes. From gunboat diplomacy and direct occupation to training and support for militaries, police, and counterinsurgency, economic and geopolitical interests have predominated. At the same time, the legacy of former policies constrains new ones, and Latin American elites, once dependent on the United States, have grown more autonomous in pursuing their own political projects.
In this archive piece from 2003, Ann Mason examines the limits of international relations theory in addressing conflicts in the global South, which had risen to the top of research and policy agendas in the aftermath of 9/11. She uses the case of armed conflict in Colombia to interrogate how international relations theory might better engage three issues relevant to the developing world: the connection between state weakness and violence, how security threats within a country are related to dynamics beyond a country’s borders, and the North-South power disparity.
Samar Al-Bulushi marks the twentieth anniversary of the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania with a reflection on their legacy for the securitization of much of the African continent. Based on extensive field research in Kenya (supported by SSRC’s Dissertation Proposal Development and International Dissertation Research Fellowships), she analyzes the extension of American and European military presences in the region, the Kenyan military’s role in Somalia, and the ways in which police forces target Muslim citizens under the banner of antiterrorism. Even aid agencies and civil society organizations, Al-Bulushi argues, contribute to the discourse and practice of “countering violent extremism” with serious consequences.