Urban Disorder and Policing – virtual theme issue

Urban Disorder and Policing

Recent events in London and elsewhere have brought a renewed focus on urban disorder, revolt and policing. To date, commentary from across the political spectrum has tended to be polarising, offering straight-forward condemnations or seeking to explain things in ways that have been all-too-easy to paint as exculpations. The condemnations have become increasingly unpleasant, mobilizing a whole range of animal, medical or racial language to describe the individuals and groups involved. Suggested responses have often shown a disturbing faith in the efficacy of state violence. Society, we are told, is broken. From the other side, there have been attempts to suggest recent government policies have directly caused or contributed to the events. Complex social phenomena are rarely mono-causal, and the events have proved almost impossible to anticipate, which itself should caution against any attempt at easy explanations. Profound social inequalities, insensitive, violent and racist policing, disconnection and despair have undoubtedly contributed to the  situation, but the way that communities have been set against each other demonstrates other forces are at play. Yet at the same time, a call for the restoration of law and order, or a stress on the inviolability of property rights is, itself, a political position, and the attempt to rule explanation out of court a defence of the status quo.

We have grouped the following seven previously published papers – six from Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, and one from Environment and Planning A – into a virtual theme issue. The papers will be freely available without subscription for two months until October 2011. We think that these papers, which offer a range of historical, political, theoretical and geographical perspectives, provide a wealth of valuable and considered insights. While these pieces will not provide all the answers, our hope is that they will contribute to a better informed debate.

Street life: the politics of Carnival
Peter Jackson
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 1988 6 213 – 227

Space, time, and policing: towards a contextual understanding of police work
Nick R Fyfe
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space  1992 10 469 – 481

Reclaiming the street: the discourse of curfew
Hugh Matthews, Melanie Limb, Mark Taylor
Environment and Planning A 1999 31 1713 – 1730

Badlands of the Republic? Revolts, the French state, and the question of banlieues
Mustafa Dikeç
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2006 24 159 – 163

Space and protest policing at international summits
Mike Zajko, Daniel Béland
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2008 26 719 – 735

Riotous Sydney: Redfern, Macquarie Fields, and (my) Cronulla
Wendy S Shaw
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2009 27 425 – 443

Producing spaces for representation: racist marches, counterdemonstrations, and public-order policing
Mattias Wahlström
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2010 28 811 – 827



I am grateful to the journal’s co-editors for their enthusiasm for this idea, comments on the framing remarks and a suggestion of an additional paper to include; to Amye Kenall and her colleagues at Pion for making the papers open-access; and to Ben Anderson for a discussion and the phrase ‘faith in the efficacy of state violence’.

12 Responses to Urban Disorder and Policing – virtual theme issue

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