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Crackdown measures won’t stop violent riots

2017-12-04

A new book by a professor of urban studies at Malmö University argues that violent riots will continue to happen unless marginalised citizens are politically heard.

London, 2011. A young black man called Mark Duggan is shot dead by police. Stockholm, 2013. Police shoot an elderly man in a suburb largely populated by non-white immigrants. Ferguson, 2014. Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, is fatally shot by a police officer. These are just some of the events that have led to violent riots in recent years. In his new book, Urban Rage, Mustafa Dikec wants to understand why. 

Mustafa Dikec

Dikec, who is a visiting professor at Malmö University, cemented his plan to write a book on civil unrest after witnessing the 2013 uprising in his home country, Turkey. This became one of the places chosen as a case study for his book along with the UK, France, the US, Greece and Sweden. Looking at the surge of unrest in these nations, he analysed the latest waves of uprisings and the factors connecting them. 

“My focus is on liberal democracies in the Global North that share many common traits. Things like urban economies and increasing inequality, as well as colonial histories,” Dikec explains. 

Urban Rage is a new book on civil unrest and violent riots.

Violence breeds violence

One of the main arguments in the book is that riots are not just one-off events sparked by irrational anger, but expressions of deep-rooted injustice and routine suffering. According to Dikec, while governments often pin these revolts onto individuals deemed to be criminal, the problem is actually structural.

“My point is that yes, these are violent events, but they are products of other forms of violence that we need to address. I’m talking about things like colonialism, discrimination, racism and police brutality,” he says. 

“People often associate police violence and racial tensions with America, but my study shows that these are major issues across the board. In Sweden, for example, even though the colonial history is not the same as in France, the way that non-white areas are policed and stigmatised carry traces of the same colonial mentality.”

However, Dikec wants to make it clear that the book does not fall into a ‘good cop, bad cop’ narrative.

“I’m not denying that there are racist police out there, but I think the problem is much bigger than that. That gives us hope, because if we can change those broader policies then we can change things on the ground.”

When the cup overflows

Dikec will be celebrating the launch of his book at a public event in Malmö on December 17. When asked how he thinks it will be received, he is cautiously positive. 

“I’ll be happy if the book inspires discussion but I think opinions are very polarised these days and that dialogue is shrinking. The good thing about the book is that the data is so overwhelming that you can’t really argue against it. You have to admit that these kinds of uprisings will continue unless we take them seriously.”

The most important thing to realise, Dikec stresses, is that although they are defined by anger, riots are political events and not pathological ones. 

“There comes a point when you just can’t take it anymore. Violence and marginalisation that lasts for years, for generations, creates a certain resentment and rage. Then someone gets killed or injured and it erupts. It’s like a cup that overflows,” he describes. 

Text: Maya Acharya

Last updated by Maya Acharya