The August 2011 Riots in England: comparisons between early media constructions and academic analysis to explore potential causation

Sampson, Bridget Catherine (2012) The August 2011 Riots in England: comparisons between early media constructions and academic analysis to explore potential causation. MSc dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    On the 4th August 2011 a young man called Mark Duggan was shot dead by Operation Trident Police Officers in Tottenham, London. A peaceful protest was followed by a serious public disturbance in Tottenham, which spread to other London boroughs plus major English cities, including Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham and Liverpool. Hansard (2011) registers that on the 11th August 2011 the Prime Minister, David Cameron, formally declared these disturbances to be riots. Many of the public, politicians and Police expressed alarm at the ferocity and speed at which the riots spread. Consistent questions were ‘What happened?’ and ‘Why?’ Therefore, the purpose of this dissertation is to explore potential reasons for the public disturbances occurring in England from 6th - 10th August 2011.
    The dissertation examines definitions of and potential theoretical explanations for riots. Using Waddington’s (1992) Flashpoint Model comparisons are made with the August Riots 2011 and earlier ones including the riots in Brixton (1981) and Broadwater Farm (1985). An analysis of media sources was undertaken using a combination of content, semiotic and narrative analysis. Firstly, the content analysis is based on a sample of fifty five articles from four UK newspapers from 4th -11th August 2011 covering the following themes: overall issues relating to the August Riots 2011; comparisons with earlier riots and notable events; criminological theories and explanations of riot causation implicit in the newspaper accounts. Secondly, semiotic analysis is used to analyse the visual representations of the riots and a contrast made with visual images of the Brixton Riots 1981. Thirdly, a series of analyses are undertaken to examine the construction of Mark Duggan as the key cause for the August Riots 2011.
    The content analysis reveals that media representations of the important influences on the August Riots 2011 are structural issues especially the impact of the global financial recession; social, cultural and environmental factors; the response of formal authorities; interactions between key players especially the rioters/looters and the Police; and individual responsibility and accountability of the rioters/looters. In some ways these findings verify the ‘Flashpoint Model’ approach of Police academics such as Waddington (1992). By definition riots involve potential images of lawlessness and destruction. However, semiotic analysis of the August Riots 2011 reveals subtle differences in constructions of the riots depending on time and place. Semiotic analysis reveals very different constructions of Mark Duggan as a ‘gangster’, ‘father’ or ‘thoughtful’ young man. Finally the dissertation explores the findings of the research in the context of emerging academic research and analysis. It concludes that future rioting is a possibility unless measures are taken to balance policing and redress underlying structural issues that allow certain factions of society to feel marginalised.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Institute of Criminal Justice Studies
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2013 15:18
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 12:13

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