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“Our life is a struggle”: respectable gender norms and black resistance to policing

“Our life is a struggle”: respectable gender norms and black resistance to policing

Elliott-Cooper, Adam ORCID: 0000-0002-4002-6470 (2019) “Our life is a struggle”: respectable gender norms and black resistance to policing. Antipode, 51 (2). pp. 539-557. ISSN 0066-4812 (Print), 1467-8330 (Online) (doi:

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This paper investigates the role of women in anti‐racist campaigns against policing in post‐2011 England. It argues that imperial discourses about gender norms and respectability have helped to shape how race and crime are constituted in the contemporary period. Women's resistance to police racism has received scholarly attention from black feminists in North America; such attention has been less in Britain, particularly since the 1990s. While influential analyses of policing in Britain have deployed a post‐colonial lens, gender and women's resistance are rarely the primary focus. This paper significantly develops debates on gender, race and policing, by arguing that the colonial roots of race and gender norms are fundamental to conceptualising one of the key findings of the field research which informs this paper: that women lead almost every campaign against a black death in police custody in post‐2011 England. Drawing on semi‐structured interviews with activists, ethnographic observations at protests and scholar‐activist participation in campaigns against black deaths in custody, this paper demonstrates how 18th and 19th century imperial discourses on respectability and nation do not simply contextualise racialised policing in the contemporary period, but expose the racialised and gendered norms that legitimise racist policing in modern Britain.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: racism, policing, post‐colonialism, resistance, gender, respectability
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > Applied Sociology Research Group
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > Department of Literature, Language & Theatre
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2020 00:52
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
Selected for REF2021: REF 3

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