Riot and protest is a theme of growing significance for contemporary social science. Across the globe, the twenty first century has seen an explosion of the phenomenon. Some is organised, with a definite socio-political agenda, such as the anti-globalisation movement initiated at Seattle in 1999 and followed by a string of controversial summit protests. The ensuing economic crisis has only intensified this process, with new social movements emerging that contest the austerity paradigm.
Alongside the likes of the Occupy movement, the indignados in Spain and the periodic waves of strikes in Greece and elsewhere, we have also witnessed informal actions, sparked by over-zealous policing, which explode into outbreaks of disorder on a mass scale. The pace of the acceleration of riot and protest has remained historically significant since the momentous year of 2011 where Occupy, the Indignados and the English Riots were dwarfed by the mass outbreak of riot and street protest which brought forth revolution in Tunisia and Egypt as part of the Arab spring. Since then we could add South Africa, China, Brazil and Ukraine to the list of places where public assemblies and protests have met with bloody repression and further resistance. Considering the growth in journal titles over the last decade it is very surprising that there is no forum to allow interdisciplinary conversations and explorations in this area.
From a historical perspective, reports and accounts of riot together with records of interrogations can represent the only trace of a ‘popular voice’ at significant points of social and economic change or conflict. Analysis of these protests can often reveal much about popular reaction to important shifts such as the rise of a market economy and proletarianisation, adding a transhistorical perspective to forces which still resonate in the modern world. In sixteenth-century England, for instance, it has been argued that riot represented a recognisable form of physical petition in less-literate communities. Such action, if contained within accepted limits, was often met with redress of local grievances and even elite displays of ostentatious paternalism, very different to mainstream responses to riot in the modern media.
There is a recognisable shift in elite uses of the term riot across the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England. Broadly speaking, at the start of this period the term denotes conflict and physical aggression between two parties but by the end of the period, moving into the eighteenth century, there is a very real sense in which ‘riot’ has been redefined as an act of violence against the interests of private property. This, of course, was cemented in the Riot Act of 1714. It was through exploring this period of British history through the prism of protest that Edward Thompson developed his concept of the moral economy of the English crowd, an idea that has been applied to understanding the complex motivations of crowds in different times and places. How can these insights inform studies of contemporary riot and how, in turn, can modern fieldwork illuminate work on riot in previous centuries?
A journal that reports upon and discusses these issues will be a forum for Criminologists, Sociologists, Historians and scholars of Politics, as well as being open to voices from the movements themselves. At the time of writing – March 2018 – we are witnessing protests of tens of thousands against the assassination of LGBT activist, socialist and MP Marielle Franco who had been campaigning against police brutality in the Brazilian favelas. Slovakia’s prime minister was forced out of office following mass street protests, US school students are striking and protesting over gun laws whilst employees of the British Museum protest to demand to be employed in-house following the collapse of their outsourcing employer, Carillion. Moreover, 40,000 lecturers at Britain’s oldest universities have just paused mid-way through an extensive strike campaign to defend their pensions.
The journal will accept articles for publication, as well as providing a blog space for shorter reports which aim to give a flavour of these growing waves of resistance across the globe. It is hoped that all readers can benefit from its interdisciplinary focus – allowing specialists to broaden their perspective on the symptoms, causes and consequences, and at the same time providing insights to those from other disciplines. An understanding of protest past and present is fundamental to a journal whose content can question, inform and reflect upon the roots of the social realities from which these actions emerge.
Dr Matt Clement (Criminologist), Dr Simon Sandall (History), and Dr Gordon McKelvie (History) are planning the launch of this open access e-journal to be hosted by Winchester University Press.
It will be launched with a conference at Winchester in summer 2018, with a first issue by the end of the calendar year.
If you are interested in being on the Advisory Board, or helping with any specific aspect of the project please contact either firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com , or firstname.lastname@example.org.