To Construct a Riot: Interpretations and Consequences of the 2011 English Riots

Zhang, Simone

Over the course of five days in August 2011, destructive riots spread throughout England. This paper examines the political consequences of these riots. It investigates how the riots opened up a space for political debate and action, exploring how actors in journalism, research, and policymaking interacted to construct the meaning of the public disruption and direct the government’s response. It finds that a dominant frame emerged early in the debate, constructing the rioters and the community in opposition and establishing the riots as apolitical. In this context, politicians were able to define the riots in terms of two crises: a crisis of public order and a crisis of social breakdown. These early framing activities shaped subsequent research on the causes of the riots and enabled politicians to use the events to ad- vance policy issues of interest to them. This paper suggests that governments do not respond mechanistically to public disruptions. Instead, governments participate actively in a mean- ing making process and the outcome of this process helps steer the course of political action.


Also Published In

The Journal of Politics and Society

More About This Work

Academic Units
Helvidius Group
Helvidius Group of Columbia University
Published Here
February 14, 2014


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