Contagion of Violence: The Role of Narratives, Worldviews, Mechanisms of Transmission and Contagion Entrepreneurs
This paper develops the theory of the social contagion of violence by proposing a four-part analytical framework that focuses on: (1) contagious narratives and the accompanying behavioural script about the use of violence as a response to those narratives; (2) population susceptibility to these narratives, in particular the role of worldviews and the underlying emotional landscape; (3) mechanisms of transmission, including physical and online social networks, public displays of violence and participation in violence; and (4) the role of contagion entrepreneurs. It argues that a similar four-part approach can be used to identify and imagine possibilities of counter-contagion. The application of the theory is illustrated through examination of the recent epidemic of violence against individuals accused of practising sorcery in the Enga province of Papua New Guinea, a place where such violence is a very new phenomenon.
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