Emotions in Riots: Exploring Microlevel Dynamics in Riots in Belfast 1969-2010

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Despite significant developments in the study of emotions in social movements research, micro-level dynamics in riots have received little attention. This paper has a twofold aim. First, employing Collins’ Interactional Ritual Chains theory (2004), this research explores the emotional dimensions of participating in riots in Belfast between 1969 and 2010, from a micro- level of analysis. Using the Biographical Narrative Interpretative Method (Wengraf 2001), I conducted 9 life-story interviews with participants in riots in Belfast. The life-stories illustrate that ritual dynamics that occurred during riots facilitate the emergence of Emotional Energy, which in-turn, reinforces solidarity. At the same time, participation in riots was lived as a moment of collective empowerment for those taking part. The involvement in riots strengthened identification with their local communities and intensified the friendship ties among rioters.
Second, the paper examines in-depth the place of riots in the lives of three participants, showing that participation in riots, as a form of collective action, was carried out as a means to defend their community against a perceived threat. In addition, these life-stories show the importance of social bonds in understanding participation in, and emotional dynamics of, riots.
This work highlights the necessity of addressing riots by looking at both the context and motivation for participation in them, as well as the emotional dynamics that occur during the course of riots.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2019
Event14th European Sociological Association Conference, Manchester, UK - Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 20 Aug 201923 Aug 2019


Conference14th European Sociological Association Conference, Manchester, UK
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • riots
  • emotions
  • life-stories
  • Belfast

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