Crossing the Threshold: School Shooting as a “Ritual of Chiral Initiation”


Delinquent Behaviors School Shooting Mass Killings School Ritual Ritualization Initiation Separation Sequestration Liminality Return

How to Cite

Aliev, R. (2023). Crossing the Threshold: School Shooting as a “Ritual of Chiral Initiation”. Galactica Media: Journal of Media Studies, 5(3), 221-245.


The article delves into the phenomenon of school shootings, interpreting these as metaphorical representations of profound dysfunctions in cultural communication. The shootings are examined through the lens of the concept “Ritual of Chiral Initiation” introduced by the author. This concept portrays school shootings as inverted rituals in which traditional structures and values become reversed or distorted. The study leans on the post-structuralist tradition of deconstruction to find out why modern societies give rise to delinquent behaviors (like school shootings) and to comprehend their symbolic implications.

The goal of the research is to analyze school shootings as metaphoric representation of significant dysfunctions in cultural communication and to grasp their symbolic relevance in today’s society. School shootings are often the radical attempts of adolescents trying to find their footing in a society while facing the identity crisis. The results suggest that such aberrant behaviors stem from inverted rituals and upturned values.

School shootings signify the identity crisis in today’s society and can be considered as inverted rites of initiation. This article is meant for researchers interested in cultural communication challenges and societal delinquent behaviors.


Alexander, B. A., & Harris, H. (2020). Public School Preparedness for School Shootings: A Phenomenological Overview of School Staff Perspectives. School Mental Health, 12(3), 595–609.

Baird, A. A., Roellke, E. V., & Zeifman, D. M. (2017). Alone and adrift: The association between mass school shootings, school size, and student support. The Social Science Journal, 54(3), 261–270.

Borisova, N. F. (2021). Schoolshooting - A New Criminal Threat To Society. Russian Legal Journal, 1, 125–129. (In Russian).

Brown, S. L. (2010). Marriage and Child Well-Being: Research and Policy Perspectives. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(5), 1059–1077.

Crawford, C., Goodman, A., Greaves, E., & Joyce, R. (2011). Cohabitation, marriage, relationship stability and child outcomes: An update. The Institute for Fiscal Studies.

de Apodaca, R. F., Brighton, L. M., Perkins, A. N., Jackson, K. N., & Steege, J. R. (2012). Characteristics of Schools in Which Fatal Shootings Occur. Psychological Reports, 110(2), 363–377.

Eliade, M. (1994). The Sacred and the Secular (N. K. Garbovsky, Trans.). Moscow State University Press. (In Russian).

Everly, Jr., G. (2018, March 29). ‘Profiling’ School Shooters. Psychology Today.

Experts labeled the Kazan shooter a lone-wolf terrorist. (2021, May 11). RBC. (In Russian).

Figner, B., Mackinlay, R. J., Wilkening, F., & Weber, E. U. (2009). Affective and deliberative processes in risky choice: Age differences in risk taking in the Columbia Card Task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 35(3), 709–730.

Foucault, M. (1984). Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias. Architecture, Mouvement, Continuité, 5, 46‑49.

Gennep, A. van. (1999). Rites of passage. Systematic study of rites of passage. Vostochnaya literatura. (In Russian).

Gerard, F. J., Whitfield, K. C., Porter, L. E., & Browne, K. D. (2016). Offender and Offence Characteristics of School Shooting Incidents: Characteristics of school shooting incidents. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 13(1), 22–38.

Golenkov, A. V. (2020). Adolescent Post-Homicide Suicides. Suicidology, 11(02), 3–13. (In Russian).

Golikhin, I. S. (2021). Skulshuting in educational institutions: Motives, reasons, prevention in the conditions of modern realities. E-Scio, 11, 710-718. (In Russian).

Goncharov, L. A. (2019). 'Columbine' and skulshuting in the structure of youth extremism and terrorism. Vestnik Voronezh Institute of Economics and Social Management, 2, 29-31. (In Russian).

Grinenko, U. B., & Romero, R. (2021). Semantic Analysis of Digital Destructive Content of School Shooting in the Social Network ‘Vkontakte’. Psychology and Law, 11(4), 180–195. (In Russian).

Harding, D. J., FOX, C., & Mehta, J. D. (2002). Studying Rare Events Through Qualitative Case Studies: Lessons from a Study of Rampage School Shootings. Sociological Methods & Research, 31(2), 174–217.

Highberger, J., Wang, W., & Brittingham, R. (2022). Differences in Perception of Safety Before and After School Shootings: A Multi-Event Analysis. Journal of School Violence, 21(3), 312–326.

Hong, J. S., & Espelage, D. L. (2020). An Introduction to the Special Issue: Firearms Homicide and Perceptions of Safety in American Schools Post-Columbine. Journal of School Violence, 19(1), 1‑5.

Karpova, A. Yu. & Maksimova, N. G. (2021). School Shooting inRussia: what Matters? Vlast', 29(1), 93‑108. (In Russian).

Katsiyannis, A., Rapa, L. J., Whitford, D. K., & Scott, S. N. (2023). An Examination of US School Mass Shootings, 2017–2022: Findings and Implications. Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 7(1), 66–76.

Keatley, D. A., Mcgurk, S., & Allely, C. S. (2020). Understanding School Shootings with Crime Script Analysis. Deviant Behavior, 41(9), 1084–1096.

Kesslen, B. (2022, July 17). Uvalde killer Salvador Ramos was mocked as a ‘school shooter,’ griped about bullying at school before deadly rampage.

Kleck, G. (2009). Mass Shootings in Schools: The Worst Possible Case for Gun Control. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(10), 1447–1464.

Kovalev, E. Yu. (2021). The Identity Crisis of a Modern Person in the Search for the Meaning of Life in a Civilization of Information. MCU Journal of Philosophical Sciences, 4, 102–112. (In Russian).

Larkin, R. W. (2009). The Columbine Legacy: Rampage Shootings as Political Acts. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(9), 1309–1326.

Loboc, A. M. (1997). The anthropology of myth. Cultural Information Bank. (In Russian).

Markey, P. M., Ivory, J. D., Slotter, E. B., Oliver, M. B., & Maglalang, O. (2020). He does not look like video games made him do it: Racial stereotypes and school shootings. Psychology of Popular Media, 9(4), 493–498.

Nikishin, V. D. (2021). The Columbine (School Shooting): Essence, Legal Qualifications, Forensic Diagnostics. Lex Russica, 74(11), 62–76. (In Russian).

Nizovtsev, D. B. (2015). The Problem of Power in the Works of Michel Foucault. Vestnik of Northern (Arctic) Federal University. Series: Humanitarian And Social Sciences, 4, 49–57. (In Russian).

Orlov, V. V. (2022). On criteria for recognizing armed attack on educational institution as act of «schoolshooting». Bulletin of Kaluga University. Series 1. Psychological sciences. Pedagogical sciences, 5(2), 32–38. (In Russian).

Paez, G. R., Capellan, J. A., & Johnson, M. G. (2021). Contextualising mass school shootings in the United States. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 18(3), 170–184.

Raine, A. (2002). The biological basis of crime. In J. Q. Wilson & J. Petersilia (Eds.), Crime: Public Policies for Crime Control (pp. 43–74). ICS Press.

Raitanen, J., Sandberg, S., & Oksanen, A. (2019). The bullying-school shooting nexus: Bridging master narratives of mass violence with personal narratives of social exclusion. Deviant Behavior, 40(1), 96–109.

Sharifzyanova, K. Sh. (2020). Current Trends in Teenage Deviation. Subculture School-Shooting «School Shooting»: The Nature and Causes of Manifestation. Problems of education quality management: a collection of selected articles of the international scientific and methodological conference. St. Petersburg, 2020, 117–120. (In Russian).

Steinberg, L. (2004). Risk Taking in Adolescence: What Changes, and Why? Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1021(1), 51–58.

Sukhodolskaya, Yu. V. (2020). Schoolshooting as an Independent Criminological Phenomenon. Bulletin of the University of the Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation, 3, 117–120. (In Russian).

Swaak, T. (2018, February 25). ‘Bullied’ School Shooters May Be a Fallacy. Newsweek.

Turner, V. (1983). Symbol and ritual. Nauka. (In Russian).

Uzlov, N. D., & Semenova, M. N. (2021). School shooting: murder and post-homicidal suicide as a transgressive act. Suicidology, 12(4), 16–30. (In Russian).

Uzlov, N. D., Okonskaya, N. K. & Vnutskikh, A. Yu. (2022). School shooting: socio-philosophical aspect of the issue. Vestnik Permskogo universiteta. Filosofia. Psihologia. Sociologia [Perm University Herald. Philosophy. Psychology. Sociology], 2, 264–276. (In Russian).

Vossekuil, B., Fein, R., Reddy, M., Borum, R., & Modzeleski, W. (2004). The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States. United States Secret Service and United States Department of Education.

Why is synaptic pruning important for the developing brain? (2017). Scientific American Mind, 28(3), 75–75.

Zavyalova, N. Yu., & Lunkashu, Yu. V. (2021). School Shooting As A Moral And Legal Problem In Russian Society. Society and Law, 3, 117–122. (In Russian).

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.