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Specifically, I suggest that the rioter’s political motivations and grievances are located in her (Bourdieu 1977), with the riot representing a rupture of the habitus.Habitus is offered as a device for understanding how the agent’s life experiences collect, reinforce and inform everyday practice in a seamlessly mundane and preconscious way.This article argues that rioting is a distinctly political action, and in order to understand it we must theorize the characteristics of agency that underpin the act.
The final section focuses on conceptualizing change in habitus, which provides a basis for understanding why and how underlying preconscious grievances emerge within the riot.
What does it mean to describe rioters as and, moreover, why is it important to do so?
The key point here is that, because of the spontaneous and unorganized nature of these acts, and the fact that it is difficult, but not impossible, to change one’s habitus, the potential of the riot may be unfulfilled.
As such, I draw attention to the nascent political aspects of the riot, which are often obscured by a focus on criminality and looting, without denying that the latter play a role.
In particular, the rioting literature has taken very little account of recent developments in the conceptualization of agency, which could enhance our understanding of the rioter.
We can gain a better understanding of rioting, as politically motivated action, if we draw insights from Bourdieu’s notion of habitus and, in particular, its preconscious aspects.
Next, I turn to the extant literature on rioting, focusing particularly on accounts which highlight the agential and structural factors that inform the act, and identify the developments in, and limitations of, this literature.
Next, the article develops its theoretical frame for understanding rioters, based on Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, whilst also making a case for its neglected preconscious element.
Locating rioters within the particular social and structural spaces in which they operate represents an important advance in understanding rioting and implicitly draws on structure/agency debates (Keith 1993; Waddington 2010).
However, the rioting literature has only superficially engaged with this literature and would benefit from a more in-depth analysis.