Våldets regler. Ungdomars tal om våld och bråk.
Rather than adults’ indignation about today’s youth, the object of investigation in this dissertation is young people’s moral rules. Rules are flexible and formable, often unclear and ambiguous, which means that they need to be interpreted in order to be usable in concrete situations. The thesis analyses young people’s moral work when they talk about violence and fighting between youths. It proceeds by distinguishing which rules they create, recreate and negotiate, which repertoires of interpretation they use, and which societal discourses they refer and relate to. The dissertation’s empirical material consists of fifteen tape-recorded and verbatim-transcribed interviews (individual, in pairs or focus-groups), with 41 young people aged 15–21, about violence and fighting. In order to place the interviewed youths’ locally anchored moral work in a broader context and obtain a basis to contrast it with, the youth’s talk is related to more general adult-dominated and public societal discourses. A limited discourse analysis of documents such as daily newspaper articles has thus been carried out. The analysis of the interviewees’ moral work is summarized in the form of a typology of young people’s fighting and violence. It shows that youths’ talk about what one may or must not do to another young person is complex, ambivalent and equivocal, and that the rules of violence are negotiable and varies with the situation and the relationship (the relative power relationship, degree of social distance and whether it is a positive or negative relationship). It also makes clear that rules are actively referred to, produced, reproduced, and negotiated in the interviews. What is made morally relevant varies between different forms of fighting and violence. In a youth fight, the beginning is important, but also how the opponent reacts and when, whether, and how one may strike the first blow or return a blow. In the moral work on play fights and sibling fights, the relationship and the purpose are given greater weight. In talk about boys’ blows, kicks and sexual offences against girls, great importance is attributed to physical strength, but also to the character of the violence—whether it is constructed as sexual or as solely physical. The interviewees set limits on what is allowed or not allowed for a young person – stranger, peer, sibling and partner – to do. Their moral work shows that social control is exercised even in the absence of adults, and that young people control themselves and each other through a host of subtle, informal social rules for violence and fighting between young people.
Doctor of Philosophy
Göteborgs universitet. Samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten
University of Gothenburg. Faculty of Social Science
Department of Sociology ; Sociologiska institutionen
Fredagen den 18 mars 2011, kl. 10.15, sal Sappören, Sprängkullsgatan 25.
Date of defence