My prime interest is in what people do when they are in the presence of others, and how these small scale social interactions shape and are shaped by longer lasting and more widespread social divisions and social realities people live by. Social divisions pertain to differences in opportunities and resources between social categories, notably age, class, ethnicity, gender and race. Social realities are shared beliefs that exert a coercive power on people. Their social constructedness is mostly taken for granted, and they are acted upon as external facts.
I am currently writing a book that applies these interests to interpersonal violence. Provisionally entitled 'The social reality of violence', the book integrates research findings from my Group Violence research programme funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant. The book offers up-close analyses of various forms of interpersonal violence, such as between youth, police and civilians, security guards and patrons, arranged fights and lynchings to demonstrate that these forms of interpersonal violence can be understood as future oriented trajectories (rather than momentarily emotional outbursts), which differ with regard to the degree of ritualization, openness to intervention by third parties, and the social realities and social divisions they (re)produce and contest.
In my work in progress with Jeroen Bruggeman, we applied a mathematical model of collective action to detailed video analysis of street fights. The data confirm the model's predictions that cooperation under conditions of high uncertainty takes the form of a burst in which a majority of group members swiftly follows initiative takers, unless over one quart of group members intervenes to disrupt the cooperation. See our paper here.
In an earlier project with Raheel Dhattiwala and David van der Duin we used video analysis to show how egalitarian urban public spaces are facilitative to collective intervention behaviour in violent incidents (published in British Journal of Criminology). With Asif Muhammad, we developed a theory that outlines how the ritualistic form of vigilante violent action is shaped by and shapes beliefs about moral community, social divisions and political conflict, published in European Journal of Criminology. Recent prior work focused on emotions, bodily action, dominance and situational asymmetries in various forms of violence, such as forms of (extreme) youth violence, robberies (together with Floris Mosselman and Marie Lindegaard) and work place aggression and violence in homeless shelters (together with Laura Keesman). These studies appeared in British Journal of Sociology, Figurations, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Sociological Forum, and Journal of social Work.
In 2016 Gert Spaargaren, Machiel Lamers, and I published Practice Theory and Research. Exploring the Dynamics of Social Life. This books brings together methodological, theoretical and empirical contributions showing the merits of prioritizing social practices --what people do and say when they collectively engage in changing their environment-- to study a variety of social processes.
Prior research I conducted was on various forms of inequality in education and in the judicial system. Together with Ali de Regt, we published a book, Investeren in je kinderen and several articles (in Amsterdams Tijdschrift voor Sociologie, Mens & Maatschappij, Journal of Education Policy) on private education in the Netherlands. In my doctoral thesis Upper Middle-Class Resources of Power in the Education Arena defended in 2005, I analysed the relationship between fractions of the upper middle class and differentiation within the highest level of Dutch secondary education. Parts of the thesis appeared a.o. in International Sociology, Sociology, Journal of Education Policy and Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales. Furthermore, my prior research on the unequal treatment of ethnic minorities in the Dutch judicial system (published in British Journal of Criminology) has resulted in an ongoing research interest in law as a social practice and how it contributes to and is influenced by social divisions. With Peter Mascini and Irene van Oorschot, we publised on the (gendered) negotiation of remorse in Dutch courts in Social and Legal Studies and on inequalities in sentencing types in Recht der Werkelijkheid.
The Group Violence research programme aims to understand how group behaviour affects the likelihood and severity of violence in public space. While the prevailing social scientific focus remains on individual perpetrators and background factors, the empirical reality of public violence is one of multiple attackers, multiple victims and multiple bystanders. The research proposed here furthers the study of violence with a novel theory that identifies how group behaviour affects the outcome of antagonistic situations – and with comparative empirical studies to test the theory. The central question is how and to what extent 1) mutual alignment of attention and action, and 2) a sense of moral community enable group members to commit violence. Project 1 (PI and post-doc) considers mutual alignment down to the minutest detail, based on close-up qualitative and quantitative video analyses of sequences of bodily cues. Based on judicial case files, project 2 (PI and assistants) will quantitatively analyse mutual alignment in an extensive range of violent interactions. Four PhD projects compare the role of mutual alignment and moral community in antagonistic situations in groups that differ from each other in these respects: police teams (project 3), street youth (4), football hooligans (5), and bouncers (6). Relying on an innovative method to reconstruct antagonistic situations by repeated and comparative qualitative interviewing, projects 3-6 will also relate the meanings of violence and masculine identity to the moral community of the group. Project 7 (PI and post-doc) uses qualitative and statistical analyses of the interview data generated in projects 3-6 for an extensive comparison of group behaviour in antagonistic situations. The ambition is to produce exemplary understanding of the crucial role that groups play in violence. This proposal shows how: through detailed and extensive comparative empirical testing that will further develop the new theory.