An Ethnographic Study of the 2011 England Riots

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    • 00:11

      JAMES TREADWELL: One of the pieces of work that I'munknown for, along with my co-authorsSimon Winlow, Steve Hall, and Daniel Briggs;has been work on the riots in England in 2011,and particularly the ethnographicwork we used to essentially frame some of the argumentsthat we're now making about wider things

    • 00:34

      JAMES TREADWELL [continued]: to do with politics, economics, and society.In actual fact, that research startedin a rather chaotic and unplanned way.I had simply came into Birminghamat the time where the riots were forming and beginningto happen.I arrived in New Street Station as the mood in Birmingham City

    • 00:57

      JAMES TREADWELL [continued]: Centre changed.And you watched as groups of young people gathered together,and shops started to close, and got that feeling that somethingis going to happen here.We basically, without ever talking to Dan who I alreadyknew he had similar feelings, and took himself outonto the streets of London to talk to peoplethat were going to be involved.

    • 01:18

      JAMES TREADWELL [continued]: And we essentially watched the riots play out.So rather than all of the other analysis whichhas happened with people like Tim Newburn, where they'vedone some really important work, Ithink, where they've gone and followedup people who were criminally charged and involvedin the riots, and asked them afterwardsabout their involvement.What I did in particular was to talk to people in the moment,

    • 01:41

      JAMES TREADWELL [continued]: while they were smashing through shop windowsor pulling bricks up from the floor,because they wanted to throw themthrough a window to acquire designer consumer items.I was able to say, you know, what's going on here.It's a party.I'm here to get free stuff seemedto be the thing that they were saying.Afterwards, when they were interviewedby people like Tim Newburn, they started

    • 02:03

      JAMES TREADWELL [continued]: to talk about the oppressive policingthat they'd experienced.Actually, what was really interesting in some ways isI encountered none of that on the streetsin the moment, which might tell you something about how peoplethink about and reflect on their behavior afterwards,how they give justifications.So the arguments that we've made about the role of the rioters

    • 02:29

      JAMES TREADWELL [continued]: and how we should understand them,how we should see them, whether their actions couldbe interpreted as political or not,is very different to that of some of our critics.But essentially, again, it was about beingthere in the moment on the streets, as things played out.Using that ethnographic method, recognizing that actually

    • 02:49

      JAMES TREADWELL [continued]: most people are willing to talk to you if you approach themin a human way.And then people want to talk about themselves,I think is really, really important.It's a rediscovery of that Chicagoan traditionthat once really inspired and infused criminology,and that still has a relevance today.The questions that I'd pose to students

    • 03:10

      JAMES TREADWELL [continued]: both in the USA and the United Kingdom,given that we've had many in some wayssimilar disturbances, outbreaks of urban disorder,is why do you think people riot.What is it about what they're doing?What do you think their motives are?Do you think that people are involved in riotsbecause they're being political, or theyhave a political agenda, or are they

    • 03:33

      JAMES TREADWELL [continued]: simply about self-interest in that moment?Are they necessarily interpreted?Can they be interpreted through a prism of politics?What do we mean about, when we talk about politics?How much can we use that term to explain crime and criminality?How much currency does it have?

    • 03:53

      JAMES TREADWELL [continued]: By thinking about those sorts of things,I think, you begin to interpret your own values,your own beliefs, your own standpoint.And that understanding where you come from, I think,is vital to be a good reflective criminologist.

An Ethnographic Study of the 2011 England Riots

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Abstract

Dr. James Treadwell describes his experience doing ethnographic fieldwork during the 2011 London riots. He compares the responses rioters gave him with the responses they gave to interviewers after their arrests. Treadwell also discusses the fact that researchers must be aware of their own politics and beliefs, and how they may affect the work.

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An Ethnographic Study of the 2011 England Riots

Dr. James Treadwell describes his experience doing ethnographic fieldwork during the 2011 London riots. He compares the responses rioters gave him with the responses they gave to interviewers after their arrests. Treadwell also discusses the fact that researchers must be aware of their own politics and beliefs, and how they may affect the work.

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