George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Political Insults: How Offenses Escalate Conflict

by Karina Korostelina

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  • Pages: 224
  • Published Date: June 13, 2014
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • ISBN: 9780199372812


Five women entered the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow and began a performance of a "Punk Prayer." Young people fried eggs on the eternal flame near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ukraine. A small island in the Japan Sea provoked a diplomatic spat between the leadership of Japan and South Korea. All of these incidents are examples of politically motivated insults that escalated into surprisingly significant clashes.

While the field of conflict analysis has looked extensively at the dynamics of insults between individuals, it has largely ignored the more complicated dynamics of insult commited between groups, often of uneven political and social power. In this book, Karina V. Korostelina offers a novel framework for analyzing the ways in which seemingly minor insults between ethnic groups, nations, and other types of groups escalate to disproportionately violent behavior and political conflict. Insult can take many forms. Yet, as this book shows, it is always a social act mutually defined between groups, and it has the power to destablize and redefine social and power hierarchies. Korostelina identifies six different drivers of political insults, producing a theoretical model for analyzing intergroup insult and conflict. She uses her model to explore each of the incidents above, among other recent conflicts, to explicate the complicated dynamics that figure within them. The book concludes with practical suggestions for analyzing and resolving complex conflict situations.


  • First study to focus on insults between large social groups, taking into account complex interrelations between social identity and power
  • Includes case studies of recent international events, including North Korea's declaration of war with the U.S., territorial contestations around islands in the Japanese sea, and the Pussy Riot case in Russia
  • Provides practical suggestions for conflict analysis and resolution of situations involving different types of politically motivated insults 

Table of Contents

List of tables
Chapter 1. Deconstructing Intergroup Insult
Chapter 2. Pussy Riot in Russia
Chapter 3. Victory Day Violence in Ukraine
Chapter 4. Murder and Release
Chapter 5. Islands between Two Countries
Chapter 6. Declaration of War
Chapter 7. Dealing with Insult
Selected bibliography