How to Start a Fight: A Qualitative Video Analysis of the Trajectories Toward Violence Based on Phone-Camera Recorded Fights

Don Weenink, René Tuma*, Marly van Bruchem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We aim to contribute to recent situational approaches to the study of interpersonal violence by elaborating the concept of trajectories. Trajectories are communicative processes in which antagonists act upon each other’s bodily and verbal actions to project a direction for the interaction to take, which is then (con) tested in the exchanges that follow. We use the notion of trajectories to gain insight in how participants turn an antagonistic situation into a violent encounter, which we contrast to interactionist and micro-sociological understandings. Using ethnomethodological and conversation analytical tools, we detail the trajectories of three violent encounters, captured on phone camera recordings to answer the question how verbal and bodily exchanges project physical violence. Methodologically, our contribution shows how bodily actions can be studied in visual data. Our cases show how antagonists move the interaction toward violence by creating a metaconflict revolving around the conditions under which the interaction will become a physical confrontation; what we call the contested projection of violence. We conclude that the concept of trajectories offers a useful analytical tool to detail the shifts and turns of the interactive process—notably it’s bodily dimensions— that characterize antagonism and violence. Substantially, our analysis raises questions about conceptualizations of the emotional dynamics (notably the role of dominance) of violence, as proposed by earlier micro-sociological and interactionist work. We therefore suggest that future studies engage with these issues in more detail and in larger datasets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-605
Number of pages29
JournalHuman Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Ethnomethodology
  • Interactionism
  • Interpersonal violence
  • Trajectory
  • Video analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'How to Start a Fight: A Qualitative Video Analysis of the Trajectories Toward Violence Based on Phone-Camera Recorded Fights'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this