Making Sense of Violent Events in Public Spaces

Abstract

Violence in public spaces gives headlines in the media and is an issue of great concern for the public. It is threatening both on the societal and private level and shakes our belief in the rational and secure social world that was formulated by modernity and the welfare state. The article takes it point of departure in unforeseeable violent events in public spaces that in the media are labelled acts of madness and in which the perpetrators are pointed out as suffering from mental disorders. Results are presented from a study of how citizens attach social and cultural meanings to such events and it is shown how the meanings can be understood in relation to transformations in the emotional-cognitive climate of contemporary society. A culturally conditioned fear and worry, dilemmas and processes of individualization are discussed as crucial dimensions in institutional and public thinking about society and everyday life.

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