Caring collectives and other forms of bystander helping behavior in violent situations

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Social science research has traditionally described bystanders in violent emergencies as being passive. Recent evidence, however, stresses that bystanders typically intervene proactively and successfully in violent, dangerous emergencies. This article examines the multiple ways bystanders act in situations of violence, with the aim of moving beyond the understanding of bystanders as being either passive or active. Based on a qualitative analysis of surveillance camera recordings of urban public assaults, the study maps different types of bystander behaviors as they unfold in real-life violent events. The first part of the analysis is summarized in a typology that covers three types of bystander action: distancing, ambivalence, and involvement. The second part shows that the involvement action also unfolds through coordinated interactions between the bystanders, what the article characterizes as a ‘caring collective.’ This interactional aspect of bystander involvement has rarely been examined in the bystander literature, which tends to focus on individual bystander actions and motivations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Sociology
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)1049-1069
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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