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The 2011 'Riots': Reflections on the Fall and Rise of Community


  • Andrew Wallace



This paper argues that sociological engagement with the 2011 summer unrest in England has thus far overlooked an important aspect of the 'rioting': the troubling by 'rioters' of the communitarian publics and moral geographies which constitute marginalised city-space. In response to this knowledge gap, this paper seeks to argue that the unrest was transgressive of governance logics which construct inner city 'communities' as spatialised units housing ethno-class legacies and sociations; environments in which remoralised urban citizenships are increasingly being located by policymakers and urban managers. A key goal of the paper is to briefly unpack and situate these projects within repertoires of urban management within the neoliberal city. Another goal is to reflect on media and policy responses to the 'riots' to illustrate the existence and reinforcement of these projects, evinced by the popular construction of 'rioting' as contravening ordered community practice. By mapping the representation and vectoring of community within these narratives either as a fallen or resurgent entity, the paper contends that they provide important insights into the contested socio-moral management strategies increasingly brought to bear on the urban poor. The paper also considers foregrounding such urban strategies as context as crucial for a sociological framing of the unrest and the repudiation of depoliticised victim-blaming accounts. The paper also briefly reflects on the periodised, networked and disparate practices of the 'riots' to stress the dangers of boxing unrest, or indeed rest, within narrow spatial or behavioural boundaries or essentialised causal categories. Amongst other things, the diffuseness and multi-scalar nature of the 'riots' revealed the deficiency of this normative reading of the registers of urban citizenship. In this sense, the paper suggests that some academic commentary on the 'riots' has been in danger of reinforcing the same localised and residualised cartographies of citizenship generated by communitarian governance strategies at a time when sociologists should be exposing and resisting such articulations. In developing this discussion therefore, the paper seeks to challenge the formulations and boundaries of 'community' as conceptualised by urban governance strategies driving the functional reproduction of neoliberal marginalities.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Wallace, 2012. "The 2011 'Riots': Reflections on the Fall and Rise of Community," Sociological Research Online, Sociological Research Online, vol. 17(2), pages 1-15.
  • Handle: RePEc:sro:srosro:2012-14-2

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