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Social categorisation and rise of violence: how deprivation of human dignity becomes the linking tile between moralistic categories and the rise of violence in society

Conflict
Extremism
Political Psychology
Political Violence
Giulia Grillo
University of Kent
Giulia Grillo
University of Kent

Abstract

To what extent does social categorisation deprive people of their dignity, affecting individuals’ radicalisation processes? While existent literature contributes significant knowledge on groups’ radicalisation and how socio-political, historical, and economic factors affect the outbreak of violence, we still lack a comprehensive understanding of how and why individuals radicalise. To this end, this paper investigates the Italian case of far-Left violence, which took place between the early 1970s and the mid-1980s, during the so-called ‘years of lead’. The intensity and scope of violence makes this an interesting case for researching individuals’ radicalisation processes. Using narrative analysis as methodological approach, this paper surveys personal stories of former members of far-Left armed organisations. It examines how they perceived the socio-political world that they intended to change, scrutinising (auto)biographical material to explain the complexity behind individuals’ decision to use violence. It also engages with socio-psychological literature to explore the multifaceted components constituting violence. This paper finds that society’s practice of categorising people can lead to violence by contributing to some individuals’ radicalisation processes. It appears that by morally judging, social categorisation promotes social divisions, harming people’s dignity. Ultimately, this paper provides thought-provoking insights for research in (de)radicalisation, peace, and conflict.