Preventing violence in activist activity : three case studies
This article focuses on how activist groups work to manage tense situations, preventing them from tipping over into violence. The situations these groups are involved in (demonstrations, for example) are characterized by combined worry and uncertainty about outcome. The prospect of violence appears when actors demonstrate either « excessive » or « insufficient » engagement. These two types of risk are examined successively in terms of how activists work to reduce or correct them. They do so not just by creating proximity ties with others in face-to-face relations (tact, solicitude, listening, trust, a compensatory type of deference, care not to hurt the person) but also by taking into account the material surroundings of the action (ensuring this cannot facilitate a shift to violence). It is shown that the public engagement of such groups is strengthened by more particular types of engagement. Activist activity is seen to be an activity of composition in which actors work to organize group heterogeneity.