Archivo de la etiqueta: boroughs

What is an urban riot today?

What is an urban riot today?

Author: Juan_Jose Villalon_Ogayar

A local urban riot is a violent social action often characterized by disorganized groups of neighbours lashing out in a sudden and intense rash of violence against authority, property or people in urban agglomerations.

According to these sociological studies, these actions occur as the outcome of historical processes that imply underlying structural and cultural aspects together with precipitant actions (Liebersom & Silverman, 1967). As for underlying conditions, the most relevant, for some researchers, have been level of inequality, social stratification, power relationship and political integration models (Loch, 2009; Duprez, 2009; Welch, 1975). But, others add cultural aspects that are similar or more relevant like the values and means of basic social identification (Kastoryano, 2006; Sen, 2006; Olzak, Shanahan & McEneaey, 1996), as well as the effect of rioting on the social identity of  individual who takes part in it and the capacity of the latter to transform his subjectivity (Wieviorka, 2003; 48). Also, latest research work explains that riots are the result of historical processes that produce social actors in a local situation (Karapin, 2002) where the main dimensions are: common structural experience (disaffiliation, institutional reproduction of inequality), culture (formed by specific collective identities that are not recognized and a dominant discourse of exclusion); and power relationship (without actors to represent and defend minorities) (Wieviorka, 2009; 167-168). Furthermore, they occur in the history of a determined place. These are dynamic facts associated to several trends as it is figured in an imprecise pyramid (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Pyramid of underlying conditions of rioting

Thus, as a set of socio-historical facts, rioting could be understood as a mark of the current social actors. From this perspective, riots could be seen as a social action that is result of a dynamic and dialectic influence between the analytical dimensions of a social system in a geographic space with a specific population and in a time that moves forward as explained by Therborn (1995). More specifically, the most of these factors could be inserted into a diagram showing the formation of a social class as a social actor as Tezanos (2001; pg. 99) considered.

However, as local actions, urban neighbourhood riots could be understood as the visible impression of local actors. These actors are very important because in recent years cities have developed a new central role into the world scheme of organization affected by economic globalization and the local territorialisation of social conflicts (Alonso, 1999; pg. 138). In this sense, the theory of situational stratification proposed by Collins (2000) is an interesting point of view. Collins explained that everyone today lives daily situational experiences of hierarchies and structured networks in highly specific, localized regions or social spaces like private, family, work or public places. But, the individual does not carry these experiences over into the majority of his or her social contacts. Thus, the macro-links of our networks are no longer relevant. People live out an experience of situational equality, of motivated indifference, not of solidarity or hostility (Collins, 2000; 39-40). But, when people are infra-positioned, what happens?

To sum up, recent pieces of research help us to consider that: 1) Rioting is a violent social action that occurs in a historical context; 2) In the current social system, local rioting makes a lot of sense because it manifests the distinctive social actors of the new society who tend to develop local conflicts; 3) These social actors have their origin in the influence of a structural substrate and inter-subjective reflections that are constrained by a culture and produce the social experiences of people; 4) These social actors are individuals who unite yet have differing belongings which during the riot can identify them as members of a specific social sector (not very organized and emerging from the structure and culture which can be categorized and found in networks without their own resources) because they take part as members of this consensual trait that has some meaning and certain specific categories developed in a local and particular area during a historical time; 5) The latest results of this kind of research show that riots and all the factors involved can be transposed into people’s living conditions and opinions. By studying these data, the researcher would be able to find the answers to the questions who, how or why.


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-Blum, R. (2008) Riots in European cities: lessons and Council of Europe response, Parlamentary Assembly, Consejo de Europa, 8 de Julio de, Doc. 11685

-Collins, R. (2000) Situational Stratification: a Micro-Macro Theory of Inequality, in Sociological Theory, Vol. 18, No. 1, 17-43.

-DESAUN (2005) Designing Household survey samples: Practical Guidelines, United Nations Publications

-Duprez, D. (2009) Urban Rioting as an Indicator of Crisis in the Integration Model for Ethnic Minority Youth in France, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Volume 35, Issue 5, pages 753-770

-Entzinger, H. (2009) Different Systems, Similar Problems: The French Urban Riots from a Dutch Perspective Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Volume 35, Issue 5, pages 815-834

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-Karapin, R. (2002) Antiminority Riots in Unified Germany: cultural Conflicts and Mischanneled Political in Comparative Politics, Vol. 34, Nº 2, pp. 147-167

-Kastoryano R. Territories of Identities in France, SSRC, Published on: Jun 11, 2006

-Lieberson, Stanley and Silverman, Arnold R. (1965) The precipitants and Underlying Conditions of Race riots, American Sociological Review, Vol. 30, Nº 6, pp. 887-898

-Loch, Dietmar (2009) Immigrant Youth and Urban Riots: A Comparison of France and Germany, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Volume 35, Issue 5, 791-814

-Olzak, Susan, Shanahan, Suzanne and Mc. Eneaney, Elisabeth (1996) Poverty, Segregation and Race Riots: 1960 to 1993 in American Sociological Review, Vol. 61, Nº 4, pp. 590-613

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-Robinson, Bernard F. (1941) The Sociology of Race riots, in Phylon Review, Cark Atlanta University, Vol. 2, Nº. 2 (2Qtr.), pp. 162-171

-Sen, Amartya (2006) Identity and Violence. The illusion of Destiny, Norton, NY

-Tezanos, José F. (2001) La sociedad dividida. Biblioteca Nueva.

-Therborn, Goran (1995) European Modernity and Beyond: The Trajectory of European Societies, 1945-2000, SAGE

-Tonnevold, Camilla (2009) The internet in the Paris Riots of 2005, in Javnost-the public, Vol. 16, Nº.1, pp. 87-100

-Villalón, Juan Jose (2006), Identidades y Exclusión Social. Ed. FOESSA

(2009), El aumento de la vulnerabilidad social y la crisis expresiva de la identificación social, Zerbitzuan: Gizarte zerbitzuetarako aldizkaria, 45.

(2012) Inmigración e identificación social en Los nuevos problemas sociales. Duodécimo foro de Tendencias Sociales, Ed. Sistema, Madrid.

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-Wieviorka, Michel (2003) Violence and the subject in Thesis Eleven, SAGE,  73:42;

(2009) Violence in France: crisis or towards post-republicanism in Huggan, Graham and Law, Ian Racism, Postcolonialism, Europe in Liverpool University Press.


Urban Riots: concerns

Urban Riots: concerns

Author: Juan_Jose Villalon_Ogayar

For many years, collective violent acts such as race, religious and youth riots have been in the news in a lot of metropolitan areas in large European cities and other towns. Local urban riots are a huge problem in urban societies because they represent destruction, disorder and institutional defeat. Some of them have involved people that could be categorised as immigrants, ethnic minorities, young people, workers, neighbours, foreigners, extremist ideological parties, Catholics groups, Muslims, etc. The same things occur in a lot cities around the world. We could say that local riots are commonplace occurrences in large urban zones. Some of the best known local riots in Europe to date were: Madrid in 2011, Rosarno in 2010; Villiers-Le-Bel in2007; metropolitan area of Paris in 2005; Bradford in 2001; Belfast in 2001; Oldham in 2001; Almería in 2000; Tolouse in 1998; and Brixton in 1995. But, there have been more local urban riots. Some of them became news but most occur without much publicity being attached to them because their consequences seem insignificant. For example, the burning of containers or cars are actions which take place very often in any city or borough. Are they riots? No, but they could be indicators of them, an indication, a trail.

There is institutional concern about local rioting. In Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe was the scenario of discussions about the relevance of riots in 2008. The main question was how they could be prevented. In a committee, Mr. Roland Blum offered the report “Riots in European cities: lessons and Council of Europe response”. This paper showed that the riots were a European phenomenon, taking place in France, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and the Russian Federation, although they were regarded by governments as sporadic and isolated incidents. Blum proposed some solutions approved by the Chamber of Local Authorities (Recommendation 197, approved 31 May 2006). But they had been refused in 2007 by the Committee of Ministers (995 Meeting, 16 May 2007). Meanwhile, other non-profit organizations are seeking new ways for finding solutions to the critical security issues facing today’s cities (For example: The International Centre for Urban Security). Furthermore, there are new institutional initiatives such as those being developed within the OCDE project “Future Global Shocks” (Renn, O. and others, 2011) or The Riots Communities and Victims Panel in United Kingdom or the observatories for urban violence, urban security or those with similar objectives being worked on.

Academic research on neighbourhood rioting is extensive. For example, classic studies were carried out by Lieberson and Silverman on the race riots of 1965, Robinson (1941). Classic research on rioting can be divided according to object and methodology. Existing studies are mainly about: race riots, religious riots, youth riots and urban riots. They often study a specific case and others seek for comparisons between riots, countries or cities. However, in general, all the studies on rioting have had the same objective: to understand how they happened. Some examples of these studies are: Wiviorka, 2009, Loch, 2009; Entzinger, 2009. Others pieces of research seek to understand how there are new factors such as the TICs affect riots (Tonnevold, 2009). However, there are less pieces of research on how to prognosticate riotous actions. So, from current research, political authorities get ideas on how they can, in general terms, prevent these situations: by reducing inequality, by increasing redistribution, by improving public services, by strengthening social bonds, by means of local associations, permitting participation in local elections, by the formal registration of all, by building better buildings, streets, public equipment. But they don´t predict the likelihood of rioting.