Variations in Vulnerability to Victimization: Identifying Individual and Community Factors
Principal Investigator: Amy Kate Bailey
Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Illinois - Chicago
While lynching is largely an historic practice, victimization based on gender, perceived sexual identity, race/ethnicity, religious adherence, and economic status continues to plague societies around the globe. Intergroup conflict is typically rooted in competition for some sort of socially valued good. Community-level theories predict increasing levels of conflict when one group threatens the status, authority, or material resources of another group. That might suggest that the individuals selected as victims would be those whose characteristics pose the greatest threat to prevailing social arrangements – those who are the most successful. Research on both historical lynching and contemporary bias crimes, however, tells us that it is people who have lower socioeconomic status, fewer apparent social ties, who are chosen as victims. Existing research also tells us that people victimized by more and less severe attacks often differ from each other.
This project will help reframe our understanding of the dynamics of victimization in multiple ways. Working in collaboration with both graduate and undergraduate research assistants, Prof. Bailey will use historical census records to locate individuals who were threatened with lynching, but not killed, in ten Southern states across a span of 50 years (1882 – 1930). Records for these intended victims, and all other people in their households, will be merged with existing data on people who were lynched, as well as on nonvictim members of their communities. Comparing these groups will allow us to identify the characteristics that put individuals at risk of various levels of victimization. Prof. Bailey’s analyses will also incorporate historical social, demographic, economic, and political data for the counties where lynchings took place. She hopes to determine which community factors placed high and low status people at elevated risk of victimization. She is also working with a web developer to create a site for online, public distribution of a database and “case files” with research notes and historical documents for each case.