Connecting Social Representation, Identity and Ideology: Reflections on a London “riot”

  • Caroline Howarth London School of Economics and Political Science
Keywords: social representations, identity, ideology, riots, crowds, Brixton


This paper looks back at an analysis of participant-observers’ narratives of the 1995 Brixton so-called ‘riot’. The theory of social representations is drawn on to make sense of networks of social representations of crowds, and to analyse the core and peripheral elements of these social representations. A re-presentation of the crowd as a collection of individuals competes with a re-presentation of the crowd as a cohesive body guided by a common history. In the examination of individual differences in the use of particular representations, both (i) re-presentation as a process in the negotiation of identity and (ii) the ideological nature of this negotiation are highlighted. I argue that the evaluation of representations and that the assessment of the role of power on their construction and maintenance are of fundamental importance.

Author Biography

Caroline Howarth, London School of Economics and Political Science

CAROLINE HOWARTH is Associate Professor in Social Psychology at the LSE. Her interests concern the relationship between identity and representation, in contexts of multiculturalism, racism, marginalisation and intercultural relations. Her work demands a critical analysis of the intersections of processes of inclusion-exclusion, structured inequalities, citizenship, participation and agency. She is also the Editor of PSR and also does extensive work on other journals in Social, Political and community psychology.