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Our life is a struggle: Respectable Gender Norms and Black Resistance to Policing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-557
Number of pages19
JournalAntipode: a radical journal of geography
Issue number2
Early online date4 Feb 2019
Accepted/In press2019
E-pub ahead of print4 Feb 2019
PublishedMar 2019

King's Authors


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.

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