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The University of Southampton

When rioting is right: British Academy awards prize to riot theory essay

Published: 7 August 2020
Dr Jonathan Havercroft
Dr Jonathan Havercroft has won the Brian Barry Prize in Political Science from the British Academy.

The British Academy has announced that Dr Jonathan Havercroft, Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Southampton has been awarded the Brian Barry Prize in Political Science for a “highly original” essay presenting a theoretical framework for the permissibility of rioting against injustice.

The Brian Barry Prize, awarded in partnership with Cambridge University Press and the British Journal of Political Science (BJPolS), is among ten prizes and medals awarded by the British Academy today to recognise the accomplishments of leading scholars in Classics, Theology and Religious Studies, Linguistics, Archaeology, History and throughout the humanities and social sciences.

In the prize-winning essay, ‘Why is there no just riot theory?’, which will be published in the British Journal of Political Science, Dr Havercroft outlines eleven provisional criteria to determine the extent to which a riot is justified and legitimate – such as whether it is “freedom preserving”, “equality promoting” or giving “voice to the grievances of marginalized communities”.

Dr Havercroft commented: “I am deeply honoured and humbled to receive this year’s Brian Barry Prize in Political Science. Professor Brian Barry taught at my institution, the University of Southampton, in the 1960s and wrote one of his major works Political Argument while there. As a scholar I take great inspiration from his lifelong commitment to fusing normative political theory with empirical political science. My current research on the normativity of riots attempts to do just that by combining the empirical analysis of political protest with traditional ethical analyses of political violence and obligation.”

Awarding the Prize, the panel described Dr Havercroft’s article as “ground-clearing and path-breaking”. Speaking on its behalf, Chair of the judges Professor Cécile Laborde FBA said: “This highly original paper tackles a salient political issue: the permissibility of rioting against injustice. Given the wealth of literature about the ethics of civil disobedience, protest, war and revolution, it is surprising that political theorists have thus far neglected to engage with the normative justification of riots. The author clearly accounts for the causes of this neglect, before carefully setting out plausible criteria for just riot theory.”

Professor Sir David Cannadine, historian and President of the British Academy, added: “The British Academy inspires, supports and promotes outstanding achievements and global advances in the humanities and social sciences. On behalf of the Academy, I extend my most heartfelt congratulations to each of this year’s winners. Whether through individual accomplishments or lifelong service, these prizes and medals are testament to these scholars’ immense contributions to all areas of life and study. We are indebted to them for their outstanding contributions to their disciplines, for mentoring and nurturing their students and for blazing new trails in a variety of fields.”

The British Academy is the voice of the humanities and social sciences. The Academy is an independent fellowship of world-leading scholars and researchers; a funding body for research, nationally and internationally; and a forum for debate and engagement.


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