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Portrayal and Perceptions

Following the 2011 riots this project worked with young black communities in Tottenham to critically address negative portrayal and self-perceptions, modelling tools to address this.

  • School/Institute/Department: School of Politics and International Relations
  • Subjects: Community Engagement; Self-Perception; Media Portrayal
  • Audience:
  • Status: Upcoming

Portrayal and Perceptions: Tottenham Youth in Contemporary Britain aimed to critically address the negative portrayal and self-perceptions of young Black people, primarily from Tottenham, following the 2011 London riots.

The August 2011 riots that began in Tottenham revealed the significant challenges that continue to face socially deprived communities in contemporary London. However, government and mainstream media responses to the riots tended to portray affected communities through the image of “feral youth”, with no public inquiry into the riot launched. Instead, a number of substitute investigations have taken place in civil society to which this project sought to contribute.

Through workshops and lectures the project aimed to explore how positive and future-oriented personal and community self-perceptions can be developed by young Black people in Tottenham affected by the riots; and to model and demonstrate how these self-perceptions can be productively portrayed to a broader public. At the same time it sought to develop a sociologically grounded understanding of these young people based on how they critically apprehended their own pasts, presents and futures as part of an evolving community.

The main mechanism for this was through a public lecture and follow-up workshop directed by Dr Joy DeGruy, an expert in the field of social psychology. In these participants were given tools to critically engage with the perceptions that they hold of themselves, their families and community, as well as their negative portrayal in public media and given opportunity to engage with these within the activities.

The events were held at the Tottenham Dream Centre, a local landmark building. Approximately 270 attendees attended the lecture, including MP David Lammy and world-renowned poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. Evaluation methods showed that the associated workshop had a strong, positive effect on the young people present.

I think everything that Dr Joy brought up was done in an inspiring, passionate and understandable manner. As I am only 17 and only have a limited knowledge of what goes on in the societies of both the UK and the USA this has been eye-opening and I am very glad to have come. Having this event in such a historic building only made the experience more memorable.

This process was followed up with subsequent wider dissemination methods to communicate the findings arrived at in conjunction with the community members present. This included a talk by Dr Shilliam, the project PI, on community outreach at an academic conference, using this project as example.

The results and themes of the project were further disseminated using a video interview recorded by the CeaseFire cultural and political magazine. This featured Dr Shilliam and Stafford Scott, a co-ordinator at The Monitoring’, a group formed of community campaigners and lawyers. This is available online in both video and transcript form, attracting over 2000 views.

Portrayal and Perceptions received Large Award funding from the Centre for Public Engagement.

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