Justifying ‘Justice’: Tracing the role of ignorance in the cultural politics of punishment in the UK

Dr Chloe Peacock, ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow (October 2021), University of Bristol

My research explores the cultural and ideological processes that underpin contemporary criminal justice policy and practices.


Reflecting on the 10-year anniversary of the 2011 English ‘riots’, this ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship asks how different forms of ignorance enabled and legitimised the state’s swift and startlingly punitive social penal and social policy reactions to the unrest, which disproportionately targeted young people from minoritised and marginalised backgrounds. Drawing on qualitative interviews with prosecutors, sentencers and policymakers who were responsible for designing and delivering this response, alongside critical analysis of media and political discourse, my project examines the narratives, assumptions and claims that they mobilised to justify and normalise the violent and discriminatory backlash to the unrest.


In doing so, my work aims to deepen our understanding of the multifaceted role of denial, amnesia, silence and secrecy in maintaining and legitimising racialised regimes of punishment.