Talking about Hillsborough: ‘panic’ as discourse in survivors’ accounts of the 1989 football stadium disaster

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Popular representations of crowd behaviour in disasters are often characterised by irrationalist discourses, in particular reports an analysis of four survivors how they used the term found that their accounts did not match the classic criteria for and sel when they said the threat of death was present. of events that was not consistent. A discourse analysis of usage suggests that participants used‘mass panic’ despite their rejection by current scientific research. This paper’ accounts of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster to investigate if and‘panic’. Reference to ‘panic’ occurred frequently, but more detailed analysis‘mass panic’ (e.g. uncontrolled emotionfish behaviour). Indeed, participants referred to ‘orderly’ behaviour, and cooperation, even‘Panic’ was therefore being used as a description ‘ the actions of the police who they considered responsible for the tragedy (as indeed recent independent research has con people may use it even when they have reason to reject its irrationalist implications. Alternative discourses that emphasise collective resilience in disasters are suggestedpanic’ not only to convey feelings of fear and distress but also to apportion culpability towardsfirmed). It is concluded that the term ‘panic’ is so deeply embedded in popular discourse that
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • mass panic
  • social identity
  • collective resilience
  • Hillsborough football disaster
  • discourse analysis


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