Policing and Incarceration

Capturing protest in urban environments: The ‘police kettle’ as a territorial strategy

‘Kettling’ has emerged in recent decades as an established, if controversial, tactic of public order policing. Departing from a historical emphasis on dispersal, kettling instead acts to contain protesters within a police cordon for sustained periods of time. This article elaborates upon the spatial and temporal logics of kettling by investigating the conditions of its historical emergence. We argue that kettling should be understood as a territorial strategy that co-evolved in relation to forms of disruptive protest. Whereas techniques of crowd dispersal serve to diffuse a unified collective, ‘kettling’ aims to capture the volatile intensities of public dissent and exhaust its political energies. Drawing on police manuals, media coverage, accounts from activists and expert interviews, we show how the ‘kettle’ re-territorializes protest by acting on its spatio-temporal and affective constitution. By fabricating an inner outside of the urban milieu, freezing the time of collective mobilization and inducing debilitating affects such as fear and boredom, kettling intervenes into the scene of political subjectification that each congregation of protesting bodies seeks to fashion.

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Volume 37 Issue 6