Session 28

28. Spatial Dynamics of Violence: Qualitative Methodologies and Discussions

In this session, we are interested in examining the spatial dynamics of violence from the perspective of the sociology of violence, biographical research, and interpretative methodology. We will inquire into the chances of a research approach that 1. considers the perspectives of individuals as well as of different groupings (following Norbert Elias), 2. locates violence in its socio-historical and spatial contexts including the figurations of various groupings, and 3. includes power relations and power balances in the analysis. While much sociological research on violence has focused on investigating its causes, we would like to put the focus on violence in the narrow sense of the word: the social dynamics around the “contestable giving of physical hurt” (Riches 1986: 2). This session goes beyond a normative perspective and strives to understand the interactive dynamics of violence that may create, preserve and/or destroy “social order”. Special attention will be paid to the history and experiences of the individuals involved – victims, perpetrators, and witnesses/bystanders, as well as their respective spatial locations. Space – which in this session is of interest in its interdependencies with violence and power relations – must be understood as socially constructed space that is constituted by human action and that can thus also be virtual or stretch along family or other networks transregionally or transnationally. This concept of space is not limited to a geographical location and has become a much-used reference point in the social sciences in recent decades. Associated with it is the realization that it is inadequate to understand space only as the material background of social processes. Rather, according to the proponents of this spatial sociological turn, it is necessary to focus on how space and the perspectives and interactions of those who use it are interrelated and mutually dependent. Consequently, we think it is promising to increasingly use a dialectical perspective on violence and on space, that is centered on the permanent intertwining of individuals and collective processes. To this end, we invite papers that are based on empirical research and address the following questions, among others:

(a) What empirical findings are there concerning the connections between (socially constructed) space and phenomena of violence?

(b) What possibilities are there for approaching “spaces of violence” using the methods of interpretative social research? What challenges and difficulties are encountered?

(c) What are the interdependencies between spaces of violence and collective belongings?

(d) What empirical studies are being conducted on spatial and violent dynamics in different regions of the world and different social contexts?

(e) How can we study spatial figurations of social groupings and the respective power disparities in violent or armed conflicts?

(f) What role do spatial experiences of violent conditions play as part of everyday life? And what roles do they play in an individual’s collective, familial and personal history?