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Title: 'Criminality, pure and simple' : an analysis of violent opposition to the police in the 2011 English riots
Author: Scrase, Stuart Thomas
ISNI:       0000 0004 7225 9900
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2017
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In 2011 five days of rioting spread across many English towns and cities. David Cameron, then UK Prime Minister, described these events as ‘criminality, pure and simple’, inhibiting serious examination of what happened and justifying harsh punitive sentences for rioters. This thesis explains and counters the naïve individualism that underpins the discourse of ‘criminality’; but further argues that such discursive acts are representative of a broader problem within the social order that is causally implicated the violence in 2011. In contrast to the popular and sociological approach of analysing the singular ‘riot’, ‘riot actions’ are conceptualised as the foci of analysis, and in turn argued as acts of resistance generated by the organisation and practice of power within the social order. Thus riot actions are conceptualised and function as a symptom and entry point by which analysis can better get under the skin of the social order and understand its failing. Arguing for violent acts against the police as symptomatic of the social order’s failure, the thesis examines instances of these in the 2011 and 1980s riots. The thesis explores and compares the involvement of race, exclusion, social identity, and police during and across these periods. It further examines how neoliberal forms of exclusion have shaped the possibilities of riotous actions, before performing a situational analysis of video footage of the 2011 riots. To facilitate this approach the thesis develops a theory of action/resistance through an account of the production of agency. The theory connects Bourdieu’s theorisation of habitus and disposition, utilises an expressive understanding of shame and self-esteem, and Butler’s notion of performativity. Thus we seek to understand how structured experiences, in particular social and economic exclusion, become meaningful to those excluded, and how this shapes violent acts as meaningful performances. The thesis argues that resistance is generated through power relations, which amongst many rioters, are failing to reproduce the sense of self-worth required for identification with and engagement in, the social order. From this standpoint, then, riotous resistance cannot be explained as distinct from the social order, which shapes agency’s ‘necessary scene’, but as rational and emotional responses to it. The emergence of neoliberalism and individualism in the 1970s and 1980s created an epistemological and thus ontological shift, reshaping how disrespect and disempowerment is experienced and understood by excluded groups. These shifts or emergences have diminished the capacity of socially and economically excluded groups to generate Politicised identities and forms of resistance. Consequently, rather than ‘criminality’ - a moral condemnation - the 1980s and 2011, saw an increasing emergence of individualised - rather than Politicised - forms of resistance against the social and political order. Individualised resistance to power within the social order is ‘performed’ through short-term goals that momentarily re- arrange these power relations with regards to the self and police. In these behaviours, structurally produced shame and anger are expressed, social identities are formed and realised through a common complaint and goal, and the self achieves value through attacking or confounding the police.
Supervisor: Tyler, Katharine ; Atkinson, Will Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: riot ; police ; 2011 ; 1980 ; stop and search ; violence ; situational analysis ; Bourdieu ; Butler ; crime ; criminality ; emotion ; shame ; race ; neoliberalism ; individualism