The space of urban rebellions. A social history of mobilizations against violent police deviance in France and Belgium (from the 1970’s till today) – PhD project of Anthony Pregnolato

red-30631_640Since the 1970’s, Western Europe has witnessed an uninterrupted series of urban rebellions, primarily in France, in the United Kingdom and to a lesser extent in Belgium. The intensity, localization, and profile of the actors in these rebellions vary according to each national situation. Most sociologists and political scientists agree to the fact that these urban rebellions almost always begin with violent police deviances, a sign of the contentious relationship between the police and the « jeunes de cités ». Besides, non-violent collective actions against police violence may emerge during or after the urban rebellions: protests, sit-ins, creation of associations, legal actions, etc. However, not many works have taken an interest to the question of the mobilizations against the police deviances. We aim to take this contentious relationship seriously and analyze the urban rebellions as being mobilizations against the violent police deviances. We will therefore examine the opposition between the “proto-political revolt” and the political revolt proper by studying the transition from the use of violence to the use of non-violent action methods, or the coexistence of both action methods. The aim of our thesis is to provide a new sociological perspective on the urban rebellions by making a social history of the actions against violent police deviances in France and in Belgium. This is likely to highlight the conditions of possibility for the urban rebellions as well as those for the transition to « legitimate » mobilizations of people victim of police discriminations and violent police deviances.

A configurational approach allows us to understand the dynamics of the urban rebellions and mobilizations, by examining the How rather than the Why. Moreover, using Elias’s concept lets us propose an alternative to the « relative frustration » theory that dominates the sociology of urban rebellions even though it is largely left out by sociologists of collective action. In this way, we will try to reveal the social space and the interdependency relationship between the different actors involved (population, policemen, associations, activists, elected representatives, lawyers, etc.). This would allow us to understand the conditions of possibility for the urban rebellions and for the non-violent actions against the violent police deviances. Our thesis is thus likely to understand how violent phenomena take place, within districts conforming to certain social logics, and what impacts they have.

Anthony Pregnolato studied Political Science at the University of Nanterre where he is currently enrolled as a PhD candidate. He works a researcher in the French-German research project  “Spaces of Violence” at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin. 


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