The Situationist

Jim Sidanius, “Under Color of Authority: Terror, Intergroup Violence and ‘The Law’”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 3, 2009

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Jim Sidanius is a Professor in the departments of Psychology and African and African American Studies at Harvard University.  His primary research interests include the political psychology of gender, group conflict, institutional discrimination and the evolutionary psychology of intergroup prejudice.

At the second annual conference on Law and Mind Sciences, which took place im March of 2008, Professor Sidanius’s fascinating presentation was titled ““Under Color of Authority: Terror, Intergroup Violence and ‘The Law.’” Here’s the abstract:

While instances of inter-communal violence and genocide are obvious and immensely tragic, what is not as readily appreciated is the widespread extent and ferocity of the intergroup violence that is channeled through legal and criminal justice systems.  Given the fact that the legal and criminal justice systems are disproportionately controlled by members of dominant rather than subordinate social groups, social dominance theory argues that a substantial portion of the output of the criminal justice system can be seen as a form of intergroup violence, the function of which is to maintain the structural integrity of group-based social hierarchy.

His talk was videotaped (though with poor lighting), and you can watch it on the three (roughly 9-minute) videos below.

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For more information about the March 2008 PLMS conference, click here.

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