Policing the Crisis—A History of Riot Control Technology

Article in Journal With Citation Index (Peer Reviewed)

Location, Date

Polska Akademia Nauk, Warschau, MZ, Polen, 2021


Technical History, Cultural History, Cultural Studies, Polizei, riot control technology, Police, Tear Gas, Demonstrationen, Tränengas, Gewalt, Macht, Jeremy Deller, Reenactment



The present article analyses Deller’s artwork, “The Battle of Orgreave” (2001), as an aggravation of the special aesthetic qualities of riot control technology at the intersection of emotion (fear, horror) and politics. The article describes a history of riot control technology that takes place against the background of a crisis. Concepts such as security and the defence of social order have been the subject of reinterpretation since the 1960s. Central to understanding the negotiation of these terms is the concept of “policing the crisis,” which was developed at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, a research centre at the University of Birmingham, England, in the late 1970s. The article brings together findings from different disciplines and discusses the state institution of the police as the result of a liberal discourse. Part of this reinterpretation of the police shows that the agendas of riot control passed from the military to the police in the long nineteenth century. Riot control technology itself (e.g. tear gas) became a signifier of protests in the twentieth century. By starting with an artwork, the article asks specifically how riot control technology diffuses into the cultural sphere (music videos, art, etc.) and what influences there are on both the political and technological levels.

Volume/Issue, Pages

26/1, 90–111

Language, Format, Material, Edition


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Published By: Florian Bettel | Universität für Angewandte Kunst Wien | Publication Date: 09 May 2022, 10:23 | Edit Date: 26 January 2023, 13:16