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Sheffield Hallam University

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French and British Experts to Analyse Riots

Sheffield, United Kingdom, February 13, 2007 --( Urban riots in Paris and northern England in recent years are set to be examined by international experts in a bid to address today's growing concerns around immigration, integration and identity.

In an innovative collaboration, leading British and French researchers and expert practitioners will join resources to investigate the Paris riots of late 2005, which spread across the country, and the 2001 riots in Northern towns and cities. It is the first time experts from the two countries will officially examine their experiences together.

Dr David Waddington, of Sheffield Hallam University, is one of the main organisers of the workshops (along with Professor Mike King of the University of Central England in Birmingham and Dr Fabien Jobard of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique [CNRS]). 

Dr Waddington said: "In recent years, there has been a growing concern in society about the situation of young people in various ethnic minority communities in both sides of the Channel.

"After the French riots, it appeared there were sufficient issues for a comparative analysis of what had happened in the UK in 2001. By sharing our knowledge, the British experience can provide valuable information to the French and we can use their experiences to test and enhance our own theories and policy."

In late 2005, the suburbs of Paris erupted into riots and disturbances that were to spread across the country. By mid-November, almost 9,000 cars had been destroyed and 4,800 youths, mostly of Arabic and/or north African descent, arrested.

The Oldham riots of May 2001 involved a short but intense period of confrontation between police and local youths. They were the worst urban riots in the UK for 15 years but similar disturbances soon followed in Leeds, Burnley and Bradford. Several young men, British born of Pakistani origin, were given severe prison sentences in the criminal proceedings which followed.

Dr Waddington, a Reader in Communication Studies, continued: "There are various similarities within the two societies based around young people feeling profoundly disaffected and distrustful towards the police. But we also have two contrasting approaches to absorbing different cultures. The British have pursued a policy of multiculturalism whereas the French approach is one of integration, where differences are airbrushed out.

"Ultimately, neither approach prevented the outpourings of anger and indignation that occurred. We need to look at precisely why this happened and what can be done to prevent it in the future."

The project, jointly funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the CNRS and Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche, will consist of three workshops in Sheffield, Paris and Birmingham, the first of which will take place next week.

Dr Waddington said the aim of the workshops is not just to understand the similarities and differences between the two periods of social disorder but also to produce ideas and actions for positive change.

"We need to really understand those sections of the community who feel alienated and use this understanding to change life for the better. We want to inform the public consciousness as well as relevant social policy."

Contact Information
Sheffield Hallam University
Suzanne Lightfoot
0114 225 5025

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