Symbolic Interactionism, Mass Panics and Urban Legends

  • Ivan Kovačević Odeljenje za etnologiju i antropologiju Filozofski fakultet Univerzitet u Beogradu
urban legends, mass panics, constructionism, social issues, Joel Best, Kraljevo earthquake, rich emigrant, body parts thieves, cannibal sect,, thieving postman


The constructionist approach to social problems has developed a thesis about mass panics and urban legends as "unconstructed social problems". This thesis, advanced by the American sociologist Joel Best, and his analysis of the urban legend of Halloween sadism, have provided the model for studying three mass panics and two urban legends. The three panics in question are the mass exodus from Kraljevo because of a prophesy that the town would be destroyed in an earthquake, the mass fear of body parts thieves in three villages in Srem, and the panic over the appearance of a cannibal sect in the town of Šabac. The two urban legends involve the rich old emigrant whose acquaintance a child from a poor family made while dialling phone numbers at random, and the thieving postman who set up his own business in Russia with the stolen pension money he had been supposed to deliver.


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How to Cite
Kovačević, Ivan. 2010. “Symbolic Interactionism, Mass Panics and Urban Legends”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 5 (2), 99 - 117.

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