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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.
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