To Strike Together: Conflict Rituals and the Situational Power of Nonviolence
What is conflictual interaction? How does it differ from domination? And how can domination and violence be disrupted by nonviolent direct action? In this article, I will theorize conflictual and violent interaction as interaction rituals and discuss how nonviolence can disrupt these rituals or change the dynamics hereof. Hence, I show how resistance studies and activists can benefit from understanding the situational power of nonviolence. Having described Randall Collins’ notion of interaction rituals, I proceed to theorize domination and conflict interaction rituals, the ingredients and outcomes hereof, and how conflict rituals can vary in intensity. I challenge Collins’ argument that violence and conflict go against the tendency to become entrained with others and argue that violence and conflict actually characterize a new pattern of interaction in which the parties mirror each other’s actions. Subsequently, using cases from the Arab Spring as examples, I argue that violence can be a form of both conflictual and domination interaction rituals. Finally, I show how nonviolence can be used to alter the rhythm of interaction in domination rituals and potentially reinforce a new rhythm both through actions of fraternization and more direct acts of resistance and noncompliance. In so doing, I engage with Evelin Lindner’s concept of Mandela-like qualities as the ability to resist domination and analyze situations from Bahrain, where activists have disrupted domination rituals nonviolently. I conclude by emphasizing the added value of the micro-sociological perspective for challenging structural and direct violence manifested in particular situations.