Helge Petersen




Research title: The Racialisation of Law, Order and Crisis - Political Struggles over Racist Violence, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice in Britain between the mid-1970s and early 2000s

Research Summary

Research Summary

This research project sets out to develop a conjunctural analysis of the juridical and political struggles over racist violence and state racism in recent British history between the 1970s and early 2000s. Based on extensive archival research, it seeks to reconstruct and contextualise a series of historical cases in which BAME individuals died in state custody and/or became victims of deadly racist attacks. It will put a particular emphasis on those cases which have provoked accusations of and protests at institutional racism within the British law enforcement and criminal justice system. Using various approaches to critical discourse, ideology and hegemony analysis, it will explore which catalytic role these confrontational episodes have played in the overall transformation of the political and violent manifestations of British racism, as well as the patterns of anti-racist mobilisation and minority self-organisation. The particular focus on the last third of the 20th century will be used in order to explore the specific relation between the political conflicts over racist violence on the one hand, and wider political-economic crisis tendencies since the mid-1970s on the other. With such a socio-historical perspective, this project will make a contribution to understanding the (dis-)continuities of violent racism, social crisis, political confrontation, and law & order in contemporary Britain.

Research Interests

  • Racism, Antisemitism, Nationalism
  • State Power, Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice
  • Critical Theory, Marxism, Social Psychology
  • Historical and Political Sociology




Book Chapters

Pöggel, T. J./Petersen, H. (2019, forthcoming): Kommentar: Zur materiellen und historischen Einbettung von Refugee-Protest. In: Daniel Kersting/Marcus Leuoth (eds.): Der Begriff des Flüchtlings. Rechtliche, moralische und politische Kontroversen. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, pp. 259-267.


Magazine Articles

Hecker, H./Petersen, H. (2018): ‘In Feindschaft vereint: Zu den ideologischen Gemeinsamkeiten und sozialpsychologischen Grundlagen von Linkspopulismus und linkem Insurrektionalismus’ diskus. Frankfurter Student*innenzeitschrift 57 (1), pp. 31-35.

Hecker, H./Petersen, H. (2018): ‘Denen die Treue halten, die ihr Leben für die große Verweigerung haben. Interview with Thomas Ebermann’ diskus. Frankfurter Student*innenzeitschrift 57 (1), pp. 16-22.

Petersen, H./Struwe, A. (2018): ‘Katastrophale Versöhnung: Zur Ideologieproduktion in den Filmen Christropher Nolans’ Phase 2. Zeitschrift gegen die Realität 56 (1), pp. 37-40.

Hecker, H./Petersen, H. (2016): ‘Kritik regressiver Kollektivität’ diskus. Frankfurter Student*innenzeitschrift 55 (1), pp. 14-21

Hecker, H./Petersen, H. (2014): ‘Die Zerstreuung ist der Feind. Interview with Thomas Ebermann’ diskus: Frankfurter Student*innenzeitschrift 53 (1), pp. 7-12.


Newspaper Articles

Petersen, H. (2019): ‘Ein Bombenbauer kommt selten allein’ Jungle World 2019/18.

Petersen, H. (2018): ‘Vom rassistischen Mordfall zur Staatsaffäre’ analyse & kritik. Zeitung für linke Debatte und Praxis 638, p. 3.


Sponsor / Funder

ESRC Pathway 1+3 Scholarship


'The Historical Specificity of State Racism: A Critique of Foucault and Agamben', International Conference, EDDA Research Center in Critical Contemporary Research, University of Iceland, Reykjavik (19 October 2018)

'A Critique of Left-Wing Populism', Oxford Graduate Political Theory Conference, University of Oxford  (co-presented with Hannah Hecker) (02 June 2017)

'The Rule of Law and Its Other - Some Reflections on State Power and Exclusion based on Racism and (Non-)Citizenship', Historical Materialism Conference, SOAS, University of London (co-presented with Tanita Jill Poeggel) (06 November 2015)

'State Racism, Police Violence, and the Juridico-Political Impediments to Justice', 5th Annual Radical Democracy Conference, New School for Social Research, New York City (11 April 2015)

'State Racism, Police Violence, and the Juridico-Political Impediments to Justice', 20th Charles F. Fraker Conference, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (13 March 2015)


Graduate Teaching Assistant

Sociology Level 2A + 2B (2018-19)

Sociology Level 2A + 2B (2019-20)

Additional Information

University of Glasgow Postgraduate Prize for Sociology 2016-17