The fact of an act of violence – the what and how – is relatively easy to document; the why, narrating the coming to pass of an act and the motivations of the perpetrators is not. Access to an internet website with a purported claim or a reading of a groups texts and statements will reveal one layer of the answer, what the propagandists want to be known. Most often though the individuals directly involved have no voice outside of a formalised statement. The issue of their agency, choices and decisions remain difficult to access or determine for the researcher. An on-going challenge is to place violence and its perpetrators into the local context, to obtain a contextualised reading of the act and actors. Brass (1997) in his analysis of collective violence, particularly riots in India, introduces his study with a chapter that remains relevant to students and analysts of political violence. Over three pages, he explains that following a violent event there is a search for the ‘truth’ about an event, not of the “commission…but the truth of its explanation and meaning, for the context in which it should be placed.” This search is a contest to explain. He later states that ‘the constructions that become officially or broadly accepted are usually far removed from the actual precipitating events and from local interpretations of them”.
Brass, P. R. (1997). The Theft of an Idol: Text and Context in the Representation of Collective Violence. Princeton University Press.: Princeton