Social Death: A Grounded Theory Study of the Emotional and Social Effects of Honour Killing on Victims' Family Members- A Palestinian Family Perspective

  • Salam Alkhatib

Student thesis: Phd


The University of ManchesterAbstract of thesis submitted by Salam Alkhatib on 4 September 2012for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, entitled:A Grounded Theory Study of the emotional and social effects of honour killing on Victims' family members- A Palestinian family perspectiveAbstract The murder of women in order to uphold 'honour' has occurred throughout history and in many contexts. Despite high rates of domestic violence and increased rates of honour killing over the last decade in Palestine, there is a paucity of empirical data about the phenomenon, the social and cultural forces underlying it and how it affects family members emotionally and socially. The standpoint of this thesis is that Palestinian society today has no solution to honour killing (HK). This study addresses two questions: the factors that contribute to HK, as reported by the participants; and the emotional and social effects and consequences of it. The study adopted a Grounded Theory method. Data were collected using individual and group interviews with family members, professionals and neighbours associated with victims of HK. The total numbers of the participants were 43 (23 family members, 15 professionals and 5 neighbours). A feminist paradigm guided the data collection and analysis. The findings of this study have revealed that the HK phenomenon is multifaceted, grounded in the interplay of several complex factors, including institutionalized patriarchy within society, families and Palestinian culture; honour and shame values in the traditional society and other societal influences (cultural norms and values, legislative and institutional systems). This study therefore concluded that HKs were patriarchal and traditional methods of disempowering and subjugating women, enabled (directly or indirectly) by families, communities, political parties, religious leaders, professionals and the state, rendering society at large as unlikely to condemn honour killing. The main result was that although family members killed their female relatives primarily in an attempt to re-establish their honour, the murder failed in this purpose and in fact made their situation worse. Understanding this significant finding gives a clear message to family members and to the public that honour killing harms perpetrators emotionally and further damages family honour, where enter into a long process which ultimately leads to social death. Thus, multiple efforts are needed to combat HK, but this is extremely difficult. Altering the attitudes and behaviour of those who believe in HK is not an easy task but one of the first and crucial steps in combating this issue is state action. This study shows that most participants, especially family members, were concerned about family reputation and endeavoured to resolve problems within the family. This makes solving the problems inside families more difficult for any external party. Therefore, it is necessary to find ways to work with families. Further research has the potential to increase our understanding of other social factors and processes involved in honour killing, which would enable concerned parties to better craft effective intervention strategies.
Date of Award31 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorShaun Speed (Supervisor) & Dawn Edge (Supervisor)


  • Honour Killing
  • Emotional and social effects

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