Supplementary Material for paper: Who controls the city? A micro-historical case study of the spread of rioting across North London in August 2011
In August 2011, over four days, rioting spread across several cities in England. While dominant explanations of the riots as “mindless criminality” have been widely contested in the academic literature, there is a lack of empirical evidence supporting alternative accounts. The present paper provides a micro-historical analysis of the patterns and sequences of collective behaviour during the spread of the 2011 riots across North London, drawing upon multiple data-sets (archive, interview, video, official report, news coverage). The analysis suggests that initial stages of escalation in the broader proliferation were the result of protagonists deliberately converging from areas of relative deprivation in order to create conflict, but that they did so as a meaningful social identity-based expression of power. We show how over time these motivations and patterns of collective action changed within the riot as a function of intergroup interactions and emergent affordances. On this basis we provide support for the argument that political, social and economic geography were key determining factors underpinning the spread of the 2011 riots. However, we also suggest that an adequate explanation must correspondingly take into account the interplay between social identity, the dynamics of intergroup interaction, and empowerment process that develop during riots themselves.