“Risk Factors” in Action: The Situated Constitution of “Risk” in Violent Interactions

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Objectives: The objective of this report was to consider some ways in which a range of phenomena commonly treated as “risk factors” for violence (including social asymmetries based on factors such as gender, race, and class and drug or alcohol intoxication) become observable in violent (or potentially violent) interactions. In doing so, we contribute to a growing body of research focused on moving beyond cataloguing factors abstractly associated with risk for violent outcomes, toward specifying the ways in which these risk factors are constituted in “doing violence” itself. Method: We used an ethnomethodological and conversation analytic approach to examine the sequential unfolding of interactions in which violent actions are projected and/or realized, drawing on a collection of 105 videos downloaded from the video sharing site YouTube. Results: Our analysis demonstrates how participants in the interactions orient to or deploy “risk factors” as resources for the production of actions and/or for interpreting or accounting for the actions of themselves and others before, during, or after the production of violent actions. Conclusions: The findings demonstrate that the target phenomena, rather than simply being abstracted “risk factors” (in a distal or “upstream” sense), are constitutive features of the in situ unfolding of conflicts in which violence comes to be projected (if not always realized) as an outcome. As a result, the ontological distance between “risk” and “enactments” of violence effectively dissolves when episodes in which these phenomena appear are subjected to detailed analysis.

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