Abandoned by God, angry or cold? Amok runs from a transnational perspective

Killing sprees shock, frighten, enrage and cause despair. They leave behind clueless politicians, helpless parents and outraged citizens. The collapse of civilization into murder provokes an intense debate as to the “why.”

Instead of questioning the reasons, the project tries to use the example of amok shootings to investigate the relation between violence and emotions. It investigates the emotional structures in which nineteenth and twentieth century killing sprees were involved. It examines which emotions were regarded as the cause of killing sprees and which emotional reactions were generated by those amok incidents. The chronological perspective will identify those structural, political and social shifts related to the increase in the number of amok incidents in the late twentieth century. The project compares three countries, the US, the UK and Germany from a transnational perspective. It analyzes the emotional factors involved in the killing sprees and links them to the different political, legal, and cultural contexts of the countries in concern. The transnational comparison should firstly clarify the way in which killing sprees were intertwined with nationally specific structures while simultaneously analyzing transnational linkages. Such incidents have a worldwide impact as they generate broad international media coverage and provoke political reactions in the form of prevention concepts and pan-European initiatives.

It is a fundamental thesis of the project that these reactions provide a central motive for offenders. To find out whether the desire to make headlines all over the world can bring about the killing sprees and how the media should then act in response it is necessary to understand the link between violent acts and emotions. The project, therefore, starts from the late nineteenth century in order to analyze whether the globally widespread rampage phenomenon of the twentieth century has also got emotional, sexual, regional, cultural, national or confessional dimensions.