School of Law

Towards an understanding of the limits of collective violence during the 2011 English riots

March 2014 - Ongoing

Since the origins of 'classic' crowd psychology in the late 19th Century there have been problems with its explanatory power. These 'classic' theoretical accounts portray riots as a pathological expression of the loss of meaning. These theories were recapitulated in popular accounts of the spread of collective violence during the 2011 English riots, which was portrayed a ‘mindless’ and ‘copycat’ rioting. While these accounts are popular as explanations for the ‘contagion’ of riots they cannot explain the limits to that spread. Despite the confidence of the explanatory assertions made in 2011, it is actually the case that theoretical understanding of the processes underlying this spread from one location to another is very limited and under developed. Why for example did the riots spread to some locations and not others?

The Centre for Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Leeds has developed two videos that explore a case study of the situation that developed in Leeds, one of the cities where riots did not develop during 2011. The first video is designed to provide some of the evidence that surrounds the situation in the Leed's district of Chapeltown where it was the case that disorder broke out but did not escalate. We explore in detail evidence that might help to understand why there was no escalation. The second video is designed to explore some of the debates that surrounded the riots and discuss the implication of Chapeltown for our theoretical understanding of what happened in 2011 and why. The videos are an educational resource and are available for download and use for educational and research purposes. They should be used in combination, with the case study on Chapeltown explored before the theoretcial discussion.

This project is linked to the 'Beyond the Riots' scholarship network at the White Rose University Consortium

Chapeltown: a case study on the limits of collective violence during the 2011 English ‘riots'

Toward an understanding of Chapeltown in the context of the 2011 English ‘riots’

These videos are an initiative of the 'Beyond the Riots' studentship network 'sandpit' event held at the University of Leeds in March 2014. The network is led by Stuart Lister and the sandpit event was funded by the White Rose Doctoral Training Centre. The video project was funded by the Strategic Development Fund of the School of Law at the University of Leeds. The project also drew funds from the ESRC's 'Celebrating Impact' prize awarded to Dr Clifford Stott in 2014. We would like to extend our thanks to Professor Tim Newburn for motivating and participating in the intiaitve and to Lutel James, Claude Hendrickson, Professor Adam Crawford, Mel Jones and Marc Callaghan for supporting its development. The video was shot, edited and produced by Dr Clifford Stott from the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies and the Security and Justice Research Group in partnership with Leeds Media Services.

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