The diffusion of racist violence in the Netherlands: Discourse and distance

Robert Braun*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This article illuminates the unanticipated but intense waves of xenophobia that have swept through Western Europe over the last decade. The author makes use of a unique dataset and diffusion models to simultaneously investigate the geographical and temporal development of waves of racist violence in the Netherlands during the turbulent period 2001-03, when the country lost its reputation as a multicultural paradise. The results provide evidence for the fact that previous riots enhance the legitimacy of violence elsewhere, especially if they are visible in the mass media, resonate with public debates on immigration and take place in nearby regions. Opposing previous research on mobilization, the analysis suggests that proxies for ethnic competition, deprivation and political opportunity structures are not significantly related to the outbreak of violence; only population size adequately predicts where violence starts. Together these findings suggest that waves of xenophobia develop in two steps: they start in large cities and subsequently spread to nearby places through geographically clustered networks and to more distant counties once they become visible and resonate in the mass media, turning violence from local deviance into a supra-local phenomenon. This process sheds light on how scales of protest shift and explains why seemingly tolerant regions can suddenly become xenophobic hotbeds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-766
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • collective violence
  • diffusion
  • ethnic conflict
  • far right
  • social movements
  • xenophobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'The diffusion of racist violence in the Netherlands: Discourse and distance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this