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Outbursts of collective violence are often (understandably) met by expressions of outrage or condemnation. ‘How is it,' accounts muse, ‘that ordinary people can commit such atrocities?' This article argues that an exclusive focus on the violent act can contribute little to our understanding. Instead, it seeks to elucidate the routine processes and actions that serve to render violence acceptable (even banal) as a mode of action. Exclusive identities and a powerful rhetoric of honour, pride, and shame persuade people that violence is either desirable or even necessary in a given context. Following Billig's account of banal nationalism, I argue that grasping these mundane day-to-day processes is essential for an understanding of collective violence. The article draws on research amongst caste-based movements in South India to support this argument.
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Keywords: caste; honour; identity; shame; violence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Sociology, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Publication date: April 1, 2006

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