Although popularly perceived as a positive force, social capital may also produce socially undesirable outcomes. Drawing on Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, this article shows that participation in its violence was partly determined by the features of individuals’ social networks. Perpetrators possessed larger networks in general and more connections to other perpetrators in particular.
The quality as well as quantity of connections also mattered. Strong ties generally, and kinship and neighborly ties specifically, were strong predictors of participation. In contrast, possession of countervailing ties to nonparticipants was not significant. In explaining these findings, I suggest participants’ networks fulfilled functions of information diffusion, social influence, and behavioral regulation. The findings point to the importance of social structure and suggest that relational data should complement individual attribute data in predicting participation in collective violence.