Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Political Science


English (en)

Date of Award

Spring 4-17-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

James L Gibson


Existing theories of intergroup violence focus on the motives of group or leaders. But why do thousands of people choose to take part given the dangers and risks? This dissertation develops a model, the entitlement-blame-anger model, to explain participation in intergroup violence. According to this model, participation is motivated by emotional reactions of intergroup anger. Anger is useful in this respect because it shapes both the preference for confrontation and beliefs about the risks of taking part. Intergroup anger, in turn, is triggered by appraisals that the outgroup are to blame for some harm suffered by the ingroup. Blame and anger are then rooted in evaluations of group endowments and group entitlements. These are widely-shared beliefs concerning who gets what and who deserves what in a given society. Thus, when group endowments and group entitlements are incongruent, either because the outgroup are enjoying resources to which they are not entitled, or the ingroup getting less than their share, the outgroup is blamed, anger is experienced and large numbers of ingroup members may become willing to take part in violence directed at that group.

The theoretical model is tested using an original survey dataset collected from a representative sample of 497 residents of of Alexandra, in Johannesburg, South Africa, where a national wave of attacks against immigrants began in 2008, and where intergroup tensions remain. Analysis of the survey data shows that each of the links in the model - from group entitlement violations to blame, blame to anger, and anger to participation intentions - is supported, even controlling for possible confounds such as previous participation in violence, the influence of peers and leaders, and exposure to material competition with the outgroup.

A few other factors also emerge as important determinants of participation in intergroup violence. Support for violence increases both the desire to participate and the intensity of intergroup anger. Here is also some evidence of an instrumental pathway to participation: street traders, who compete with foreign traders for customers, show an increased likelihood of taking part in future violence, but only when they are also exposed to the social pressures produced by attendance at community policing meetings. Hearing friends and acquaintances blame the outgroup increases an individual's own level of outgroup blame. Hearing leaders blame the outgroup, in contrast, increases the level of intergroup anger. Finally, authoritarian values also result in greater blame of the outgroup, but only when coupled with perceived violations of group entitlements.


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