Not ruptures but catalysts? Repositioning urban riots and their afterlives through London’s 2011 youth riots

Authors: Anthony Ince*, Cardiff University, Thomas Borén, Stockholm University, Ilda Lindell, Stockholm University
Topics: Urban Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: riots, urban, London, regeneration
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The riots that spread across England in summer 2011, triggered initially by the police killing of a young black man, Mark Duggan, were the largest urban uprisings the UK had seen in a generation. Riots tend to be understood as ruptures from ‘acceptable’ spaces of political engagement and therefore perceived as irrational, unarticulated outbursts. Scholars and policymakers alike have engaged in depth with their causes and political contexts; however, in this paper, we invert the question, “what causes riots?” to ask instead “what do riots cause?” Using a conceptual framework drawn from both Global North and South, we trace long-term aftermaths and afterlives of the 2011 riots in two areas of London, Tottenham and Croydon, particularly through struggles and experimentations around regeneration projects initiated by post-riot public and private investment. These interventions in the urban fabric catalysed urban politics that variously manifested as ‘alternative’ and ‘mainstream’, ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’, in relation to established capital-driven speculative redevelopment models. Imaginaries, politics, and practices were generated, halted, recast, or accelerated in dynamic ways that were also entwined with the government’s unfolding localism and austerity agendas. Different forms and levels of connectivity, labour market structures, and historical traces in the communities are significant factors in how actors responded differentially in place and across space. A focus on riots’ long-term aftermaths allows scholars to interrogate the spatialities and temporalities of how alternative urbanisms emerge and intersect with mainstream urban agendas to confront precisely the marginality and exclusion that lies at the root of riots themselves.

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