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Zoot-Suiters and Mexicans: Symbols in Crowd Behavior

Ralph H. Turner and Samuel J. Surace
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 62, No. 1 (Jul., 1956), pp. 14-20
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2773799
Page Count: 7
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Zoot-Suiters and Mexicans: Symbols in Crowd Behavior
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Abstract

Content analysis is used to test a hypotesis that over hostile crowd behavior is preceded by the development of an unambigously unfavorable symbol. The Los Angeles "zoot-suit riots" of 1943 provide an instance, and a sample covering ten and one-half years of newspaper reference to the symbol "Mexican" is analyzed. The hypothesis receives support through the unanticipated emergence of new thematic elements displacing the old traditional references. Predominatly unfavorable connotations of the new "zoot-suiter" symbol tend to neutralize the ambivalence in the symbol "Mexican," thus providing a necessary conditions for over hostile crowd behavior.

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