Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Randall Collins

Second Advisor

Guobin Yang


The essays in this dissertation apply a micro-first sociology of violence to three topics operating at several different timescales–decades, years, days, and minutes.

The first paper considers the evolution of collective violence over fifty years. This study asks whether the emergent nature of violence prevents violent forms of contention from evolving as quickly as others. Using a custom algorithm, I matched entries in a database of ethno-religious violence in India with source articles from the Times of India archive. I categorized and counted the verbs in these articles, and the same verbs in a random sample of 10,000 articles from the same time period. I find that verbs related to violence show more stability than verbs related to other forms of collective action.

The second paper considers two processes of diffusion–a years-long process of violence diffusion constituting a wave of ethno-religious violence in India from 1977 to 1992, and a days-long process of diffusion where one incident of collective violence may spark others. I use an event-history framework and a recently-developed GIS data crosswalking procedure to compare demographic, electoral, economic, and diffusion variables across India at the level of parliamentary constituencies. The large- and small-scale diffusion variables are strong predictors of violence. In particular, diffusion patterns are consistent with regional language media as a vector for violence, with uptake more likely where the majority group’s economic or demographic dominance is less pronounced.

The third paper considers a thirty-minute process of de-escalation after a gunman threatened to commit a school shooting. Using audio and video recordings along with a memoir, I analyze how the school bookkeeper, acting as hostage and negotiator, convinced the gunman to surrender. The turning point resulted from two emotional processes, one bolstering thebookkeeper, the other exhausting the gunman. These processes created an opening for processes of deliberation, identity repair, and rapport-building to proceed.

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