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Conference examines urban unrest

Posted on 21 September 2011

A conference at the University of York will focus on the riots in English and European cities over the summer.

Organised by the University’s Centre for Urban Research (CURB), the conference will examine the unrest within the broader contexts of economic decline, social inequality and criminal cultures that helped shape these events.

The meeting has been organised as a rapid response to the disturbances

Dr Rowland Atkinson

Taking place on 22 and 23 September at the University’s Wentworth College, issues under discussion will include the media response to the riots, the complex role of the state, the violence of street gangs, interviews with rioters to consider motivations, how social media systems were used during the riots, problematic policing practices and the harms of non-lethal riot control technologies.

Dr Rowland Atkinson, from the University’s Department of Sociology, said: “The meeting has been organised as a rapid response to the disturbances and is fuelled by a need to challenge and deepen the often superficial commentaries offered by various political and media outlets at the time.

“The focus of much media and political analysis has so far been on personal choice and overt criminality; the symposium will instead help to develop perspectives that help us to examine the social, economic and political preconditions that triggered the riots.”

The keynote speaker at the conference – Urban unrest, social resentment and justice – will be Professor Tony Jefferson from Keele University. He will discuss how many of the issues raised by the latest round of unrest connect us to a longer history of social forces and problems that were already being identified by academic analysts in the 1970s.

Dr Atkinson said: “Fundamental questions have already been asked by academics and even financial analysts about how public interventions – including policing, education, welfare and housing – and economic exclusion and anger at social inequality combined to produce this social volatility. Yet the political response has largely addressed only the symptoms of the riots: adopting more strenuous forms of sentencing, policing and riot control. Such responses seem likely to prevent many communities from becoming safe again.”

Notes to editors:

  • The Centre for Urban Research (CURB) is a new interdisciplinary centre based at the University of York, which has a particular focus on the social, political, economic and environmental challenges that confront our towns and cities. For further information visit 
  • CURB will be holding a series of conferences on the ‘Post Crash City’ aimed at academics, practitioners, policy makers and those interested in urban and regional affairs. The theme of the first conference will be ‘Security, policing and social control’ in Spring 2012.

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

Contact details

Dr Rowland Atkinson

Tel: +44 (0)1904 434742

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