Project summary

This project will examine writers' enduring engagement with both the riot's destructive energy and transformative potential. Tracing a long arc from the 18th century novel to recent multi-medial narratives generated in the wake of the Arab Spring, this project will uncover a history largely ignored by literary scholars. 

Recent claims that we are living in a 'time of riots' throw the significance of this literary archive and its retrospective re-enactment of emblematic riots into sharp relief. Drawing together writing from Britain, America, Australia and the Middle East, this project will mobilise the literary archive as a dynamic evolving analytical tool for understanding the resurgence of the riot in a contemporary global context.


  • to elaborate a comparative historical framework for analysing parallels and divergences amongst literary forms of writing about riots over 250 years. This aspect of the project will draw on the efflorescence of new theoretical developments in the wake of Occupy, the Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter, and other contemporary contexts in Europe, America and Australia.

  • to propose a history of the riot as a unique political form of vocalisation in post-French-Revolutionary and colonial contexts, from the 18th century to the current day

  • to track and analyse shifting understandings of the expressive and creative character of the riot in Modernist and 20th century fiction and poetry, as a demotic practice of the multitude

  • to examine the resurgence of the riot in late 20th and early 21st century American, Australian, Middle- Eastern and European contexts through the lens of contemporary literary engagements 

  • to assert the vital significance of the literary archive as a dynamic, evolving analytical tool for understanding the resurgence of the riot in a contemporary global context.

Benefits & impacts

In the last two decades riots have become a familiar feature of an increasingly volatile global politics, but as this project reveals, contemporary responses to these events across a range of media and modes of writing have a long history. Literary writers have historically struggled in the aftermath of riots to make sense of and communicate the collective trauma felt by families and communities who suffer injury, death, homelessness or unemployment in the wake of riots. 

This project is designed to balance both far-reaching scholarly enquiry and impact, with engagement with a broad range of readers, storytellers, and communities in Australia, Europe, America and the Middle East, for whom the riot is an immediate reality.


Professor Helen Groth (Lead CI), Professor Julian Murphet (University of Adelaide), Dr Jumana Bayeh (Macquarie) 

Funding body

Australian Research Council / Future Fellowship 

Research area

Literary studies