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Senior sociology major Alex Park was awarded first prize in the 46th Annual Midwest Sociological Society Student Paper Competition. The Midwest Sociological Society (MSS), founded in 1936, is a professional organization of academic and applied sociologists as well as students of the discipline.

Abstract

A number of recent gains in social science have found that periods of violent civil disorder marked by chaos may actually exhibit an underlying order and a rationale on part of perpetrators in response to specific political conditions of the time. The conjecture is that violent control emerges as a grassroots effort to establish authority in areas experiencing a vacuum of central authority. Given those conditions, can these same theories of violence be applied to incidents of widespread non-violent control as well, where and when the political conditions are similar? Using a variety of accounts, from research conducted by human rights groups and media outlets and government data, this paper considers the actions of residents in two townships in South Africa during a twenty-day period of xenophobic violence in May 2008. While one township acted violently against its immigrant population, the other mobilized to protect its own immigrants. These actions are considered within a similar theoretical framework to demonstrate how both constituted an assertion of local control in the interests of residents during a time of political instability at the national level.



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