This presentation sets out to discuss the dynamics of armed mobs in a riot-prone city. Specifically, it aims to offer a fine-grained account of the spatial practices of armed mobs in deadly riots. Based on ethnographic fieldwork intermittently carried out over a span of five years (2014 – 2019), the research provides an intimate descriptive analysis of armed mobs, their origins, routes and the destinations of violence in the episodic riots that ravaged the Nigerian city of Jos over the last two decades. Representing a departure from approaches that focus mainly on intergroup relations to explain the outbreak of violence, the study casts a glare on interactions within armed mobs to show how intragroup processes shape the course of violence. Moreover, it also discusses some ideas on how the spatial movements and interactions that occur between points of mobilization and destinations of violence help armed mobs to forge the level of shared emotional energy and team entrainment needed to effectively engage in collective violence.
Looking at the micro-dynamics of armed mobs in this manner addresses two related gaps.
First, because the literature does not pay adequate attention to armed mobs that are
at the center of violence during deadly riots, our understanding of such unrests is
somewhat hollow and disproportionately oriented towards remote structural factors
that may explain the prevailing conflict but do not in any specific sense account
for the contours and intricacies of deadly riots. Understanding the intra-group processes
of armed mobs promises fresh and more concrete insights on the mechanisms that translate
conflicts into violence. Second, though the spatial mobility of armed mobs is implicitly
acknowledged in the literature on deadly riots, there is hardly any explicit discussion
on the implications of this mobile character for the diffusion and escalation of violence
as well as for peace-building efforts. Spotlighting the mobile character of armed
mobs can help us better understand the contextual factors that shape the spatial spread
of riots towards more informed violence prevention measures.