"Quelling uprisings" : respectable bodies and the politics of cleaning

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2012-05

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Abstract

This research examines the ways in which dominant boundaries and identities are (re)defined at the intersection of class, gender, race and nation in the context of the 'cleanups' that took place in the aftermath of the London riots in August 2011. Through a semiotic and discursive analysis of media photographs of the Hackney and Battersea cleanups, I explore how some bodies are allowed to belong in space while others are made 'out of place'. In reading the photographs as a text, I pay particular attention to the performativity of the cleaning body and its relationship with brooms, gloves and other technologies of cleaning. Influenced by Anne McClintock's (1995) analysis of 19th Century cleaning in Imperial Leather, I explore the contemporary relevance of her work in 21st Century London and in the context of gentrification. I also use Sara Ahmed's (2004) work on the politics of emotions to explore the way in which fear and love allow bodies to cohere in opposition to the perceived threat of undesirable 'others'.

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