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Journal Article


Lee MR, Ousey GC. J. Interpers. Violence 2011; 26(5): 899-929.


Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.


(Copyright © 2011, SAGE Publishing)






Crime scholars have long conceptualized culture as a set of values that violence is used to defend or reinforce (i.e., honor). This analysis moves beyond this framework by conceptualizing culture as a toolkit providing strategies of action that individuals use to negotiate social situations. Qualitative data obtained from participant responses to vignettes describing potential conflict situations are analyzed to explore the merit of the cultural toolkit framework as it pertains to the "southern culture of violence" thesis. Contrary to the traditional culture as values model, these data indicate that interpersonal violence is a situationally viable response for diverse groups of people, including males and females, Blacks and Whites, the young and the older. The interplay between culture and social structure is also apparent. Although culture provides individuals with a toolkit, structural factors provide situations in which individuals must decide which cultural tools are most appropriately used. Violence is most viable when individuals feel that the police cannot be relied on and when they perceive that there is an imminent or potentially recurring threat to their family or themselves. Rarely is violent action justified to achieve overarching values, although values are clearly part of the toolkit that informs social action. Participants also frequently report that some segments of their community would consider violence to be an appropriate response even when they personally disagree with that assessment. This highlights the role of agency, where individual lines of action may be constructed independently from perceived community expectations, another major point of departure from the values model.

Language: en


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