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Published by Cesar Altamira

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Published by: Cesar Altamira on Aug 03, 2013
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Rebellious Subjects:The Politics of England’s 2011 Riots
Ben Trtt, Etr
Ben Trott
Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace,Proaners o this neighbour-stainèd steel—Will they not hear? What, ho—you men, you beasts.—Prince Escalus, in William Shakespeare,
Romeo and Juliet 
n August 4, 2011, a marksman rom London’s Metropolitan Police shotand killed Mark Duggan, a twenty-nine-year-old black Briton, in circum-stances that remain both unclear and highly disputed. Immediately, the kill-ing “resounded with earlier instances o unaccountable and reckless use o deadly orce,” as Paul Gilroy explains in one o the essays that ollow. Twodays later, Tottenham in north London erupted in the frst o what becameour consecutive nights o rioting. The uprisings quickly spread across thecity—which saw unrest in most o its thirty-two boroughs—and then mucho England. Outside the capital, Birmingham, Croydon, Gloucester, Liver-pool, Nottingham, Manchester, and West Bromwich were among the townsand cities that experienced the heaviest rioting, although dozens o otherswere also aected, including large cities like Bristol and Leeds.It was Britain’s most signifcant and widespread urban unrest in atleast a generation. Upward o fteen thousand people are thought to havetaken part. Twenty-fve hundred shops and other businesses were looted.Insurance claims ollowing the riots were estimated to have totaled up to £300 million in London alone.
Five people were let dead. On just onenight in the capital, an unprecedented sixteen thousand police ofcerswere deployed to quash the riots, and according to the Metropolitan Police(n.d.), 4,714 riot-related arrests were made during the uprisings and their
The South Atlantic Quarterly
112:1, Summer 2013doi 10.1215/00382876-2146449 © 2013 Duke Unversty Press
atermath—with 2,905 ormally charged or summoned to court so ar and1,103 o these receiving prison sentences.The riots frst broke out ollowing a protest march to Tottenham PoliceStation organized by Mark Duggan’s riends, amily, and other supportersdemanding inormation about the shooting. The Duggan amily let aroundnine in the evening as clashes with the police began. Two police cars and adouble-decker bus were set alight, and intense looting enguled much o thesurrounding area. These elements—violent clashes with police, arson, andwidespread looting—characterized many, although not all, o the riots thatoccurred over the next ew days.As the events unolded—and in the days, weeks, months, and nownearly two years that have passed—commentators, activists, politicians, andtheorists have all struggled to make sense o what happened and why. Whatwere the riots’ causes? Who had taken part, and why? Why did the riots eruptand spread so ar this time, when other perceived injustices, abuses, or actso police violence have provoked no such response? And what sort o reac-tions and reconfgurations did they generate, i any?Most analyses have been heavily inormed by a single, albeit multi-aceted problem:
, and
in which sense
to ascribe the status o “political” to the riots. Many o those on the right and center-right o theideological spectrum, and not a ew on the let, dismissed the riots—andthe looting in particular—as primarily opportunistic, simply criminal,and thus generally apolitical. By and large, those (more interesting, criti-cal) approaches that resisted such dismissals have examined one or moreo the ollowing interconnected dimensions o the 2011 riots, and specif-cally:
of their politics
. The frst involves recognizing the riots as politicalsimply by virtue o their having emerged rom, been ormed by, and givenurther shape to
a political context 
—even i not yet necessarily in a clearlyquantifable way. This is a context, o course, that is simultaneously eco-nomic, social, and cultural, as well as crosscut by racialized hierarchies.To examine this context has meant exploring a reality plagued by a pre-cariousness and insecurity that cannot but come rom sustained crises ineach o these felds.The second, related dimension to the politics o the riots concerns theways they were, became, and have remained
an object of politics
. Exploringthis has meant addressing the technologies o power to which the rioters,and those who surrounded them, were subjected: how they were tracked,documented, disciplined, and punished, and with what eect. What trans-ormations in power, politics, and policy has all this entailed?

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