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Title: The impact of everyday violence on identity : an experimental study in Nigeria
Author: Lentz, Lauren
ISNI:       0000 0004 8503 0830
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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"Everyday" violence, such as robbery, burglary, or interpersonal assault, is endemic throughout much of the developing world, yet there has been relatively little research about its effects on social identity and intergroup relations. Using original data collected from an experiment embedded in a survey of over 1,000 people in Lagos, Nigeria, I empirically assess the impact of the acute threat of everyday violence, as well as actual victimization, on social identity, trust, and attitudes about violence and politics. I find that exposure to everyday violence significantly impacts identity - and that its effects vary considerably depending on whether the individual was "merely" threatened by violence or actually experienced it firsthand. The fear induced by an acute threat of everyday violence is broadly identity-affirming, increasing evaluations of and warmth toward the primary in-group and depressing trust in and attitudes toward the out-group. Actual victimization, however, has the opposite effect, leading to a greater openness toward and trust in the primary out-group. Neither threat nor victimization significantly impacts attitudes about politics or the future use of violence. Drawing on over 70 interviews with violence-affected-Lagosians, I argue that the way expectations about one's security and community are defied and then rebuilt may account for this effect. Specifically, I point to three contributing factors: 1) disappointment in the apathetic in-group response; 2) "empathy-born-of-violence;" and 3) positive religious coping. These dynamics play out over time and are largely dependent on interactions with others; in this sense, one's social environment may significantly shape whether victimization leads to openness to others and to what extent. This research demonstrates, among other things, the profound and diverse ways in which exposure to everyday violence affects identity, and the importance of incorporating the study of everyday violence into research agendas about the dynamics of identity and conflict.
Supervisor: Cheeseman, Nic ; Harding, Robin Sponsor: John Fell Fund ; Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Social Psychology ; Political Science