Dissertation Abstracts

Qualifying Violence In Situ. A Study of Interactional and Cognitive Qualifications of Festive and Violent Gestures

Author: Gaëlle Chartier, gaelle.chartier@outlook.fr
Department: Sciences sociales
University: Université Sorbonne Paris Nord, France
Supervisor: Marie Jaisson
Year of completion: 2021
Language of dissertation: French

Keywords: Violence , Systems of representations , Gestures , Neurophysiology
Areas of Research: Senses and Society , Body in the Social Sciences , Conceptual and Terminological Analysis


This research focuses on the process leading individuals to qualify a situation, a gesture or another individual as “violent”. This work supports the idea that violence relies on dynamics of moral qualifications, rather than being a social or a physical state. More precisely, this study locates the examination of violent qualification during interactions: how do individuals qualify a situation as violent, as it is happening? The main objective is therefore to specify the cognitive process underpinning in situ violent qualifications. In this perspective, Durkheimian sociology of systems of representations and Goffman’s frame analysis, on the one hand, the motor theory of perception and action, on the other hand, offer theoretical and empirical supports to analyse face-to-face violent qualifications: body, gestures and their physiology embody the operation of systems of representation during interactions. The arousal of violent qualifications is explored alongside festive qualifications, for the contrast they offer a priori. This research establishes that in situ violent qualification is a four-step cognitive and interactional process: 1) an excessive variability during an interaction breaks individual expectations ("attentes"); 2) uncertainty calls for a moralization of the interaction; 3) the large moral frame rigidifies individuals status; 4) univocity annihilates the individual ability to anticipate the future. The chain of these four sequences, which is never irreversible, particularize in fine, the violent experience: the will to banish uncertainty generated by an act resisting their expectations leads individuals to engage in a negation of the possibility of action itself.