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It’s Who You Know: Social Networks, Interpersonal Connections, and Participation in Collective Violence


  • Omar McDoom

    () (London School of Economics)


What explains why certain individuals participate in episodes of collective violence and others not? Differential selection into riots, communal violence, and ethnic massacres has often been explained in terms of individual attributes: age, gender, occupation, education, income. Using social network analysis, I present a relational theory of participation to complement the attribute-based approach. I find participation is a function of the characteristics of (i) an individual?s network; (ii) the connections within this network; and (iii) the individual actor. Drawing on Rwanda?s genocide, I compare participants and non-participants in the violence from one community. I find first the size of an individual?s network mattered. Participants were better connected generally and to other participants specifically. Second, the type and strength of connections also mattered. Kinship connections and stronger connections to other participants better predicted participation. Third, there existed a small core of “organizers” whose influence was due to their individual characteristics rather than their network characteristics.

Suggested Citation

  • Omar McDoom, 2011. "It’s Who You Know: Social Networks, Interpersonal Connections, and Participation in Collective Violence," HiCN Working Papers 140, Households in Conflict Network.
  • Handle: RePEc:hic:wpaper:140

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    Blog mentions

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    1. Rwanda and collective violence
      by UDADISI in UDADISI on 2013-02-12 18:21:00

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