The 2023 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture—“Decommissioning Anti-Racism: Police Power, State Capture, and Black Radical Traditions”

Adam Elliott-Cooper

School of Politics and International Relations

Queen Mary University of London

If you’ll be attending the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) annual international conference in London, please join us (either in-person or virtually) for the 2023 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture, “Decommissioning Anti-Racism: Police Power, State Capture, and Black Radical Traditions”, presented by Dr. Adam Elliott-Cooper on Thursday 31st August, 16:20-18:00 BST in the Ondaatje Theatre.

Abstract: In 2020, anti-racist protests swept across Britain, with activists challenging state-led reforms to policing as they made calls to defund the police. In the same year, the UK government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities rejected not just the radical demands of Black Lives Matter protesters, but even liberal analyses of institutional racism in policing. This lecture examines how these two political interventions, analysing the same place at the same time, arrived at such divergent conclusions. I intend on doing this by introducing a third party, the “independent” commissions which occupy the liberal centre ground. They have attempted to satisfy the left by adopting terms like institutional racism, while also appeasing the establishment right, by changing little of Britain’s unequal racial landscape. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this balancing act has satisfied neither party, resulting in a surge in both radical anti-racism at the grassroots, and hard-line police, prison and border policies from government. The resolution of these tensions won’t just shape the fate of Britain’s racial landscape, but the terrain upon which all political struggles are fought.

Dr. Adam Elliott-Cooper is a Lecturer in Social and Public Policy in the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London. As well as Black Resistance to British Policing (Manchester University Press, 2021) and Empire’s Endgame: Racism and the British State (co-authored with Gargi Bhattacharyya, Sita Balani, Kerem Nişancıoğlu, Kojo Koram, Dalia Gebrial, Nadine El-Enany and Luke de Noronha; Pluto Press, 2021) his recent publications include “Abolishing Institutional Racism” (Race & Class, 2023), “Sold Out? The Right-to-Buy, Gentrification, and Working-Class Displacements in London” (co-authored with Phil Hubbard and Loretta Lees; The Sociological Review, 2020) and “‘Our life is a struggle’: Respectable Gender Norms and Black Resistance to Policing” (Antipode, 2019).

As if such publications were not activist enough, Adam also sits on the board of the Monitoring Group, one of the oldest anti-racist grassroots groups in the UK, has written and made programmes for the Guardian and BBC Radio 4, among other outlets, and has been interviewed on BBC News, Channel 4 and Sky News, by UCL’s Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism & Racialisation, and on numerous podcasts. For these interventions on some of the most pressing issues of our times—racism, policing and austerity, defunding the police, public trust, Black resistance and racial justice, Black Lives Matter and Covid lockdowns, the criminalisation of Black music, and much else—see his QMUL webpages.

Adam might call himself an “occasional geographer” but here at Antipode we think that his is one of the most vital voices in the discipline today. His 2023 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture “Decommissioning Anti-Racism: Police Power, State Capture, and Black Radical Traditions” couldn’t be more timely, and we would be delighted if you could join us, either online or in the RGS Ondaatje Theatre, for it. Those who cannot attend on Thursday 31st August (16:20-18:00 BST) will be able to watch later, either thorough the RGS or here at

To mark Adam’s 2023 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture, we have selected a variety of exciting recent articles, making them available to readers without a subscription. Together they reflect themes germane to his work, and will, we hope, offer further reading to his lecture. Many thanks to Adam, from everyone at Antipode the journal and the Antipode Foundation, for agreeing to join us in London, and to Wiley’s Sarah Ritchie, Hannah Lindert and Tom Saxton, and to Sarah Evans at the RGS, for all their help with the lecture.

Whose Streets? Roadway Protests and Weaponised Automobility
Satya Savitzky and Julie Cidell (2023)

Unravelling the “Thin Blue Line”: Policing as an Engine of Inequality
Geoff Boyce, Vanessa Massaro and Laura Spess (2023)

Excavating Racial Capitalism in London’s West India Docks
George Legg (2023)

Tek Down Nelson! The Struggle for Repair in Barbados
Zaira Simone (2023)

From London to Grenada and Back Again: Youth Exchange Geographies and the Grenadian Revolution, 1979-1983
Jacob Fairless Nicholson (2023)

Schooling in the University Town: The Racial Capitalist Foundations of Education
Carlos Serrano (2023)

The Abeng’s Call: The Articulation of Place and the International in Black Power Print Production
Ben Gowland (2023)

Assembling Under the Westway: The Emergence of Social Infrastructure in North Kensington, London
Pablo Sendra, Toby Laurent Belson and Marco Thomas Picardi (2023)

How to Make a City into a Firetrap: Relations of Land and Property in the UK’s Cladding Scandal
Callum Ward and Frances Brill (2023)

Racial Capitalism, Political Reproduction, and the Commons: Insights from Migrant Solidarity Politics in Glasgow
Ana Santamarina (2023)

Designing a New Civic Economy? On the Emergence and Contradictions of Participatory Experimental Urbanism
Matthew Thompson and Colin Lorne (2023)

The Indexification of Poverty: The Covert Politics of Small-Area Indices
Ed Kiely and Samuel Strong (2023)

Towards a Political Economy of Social Infrastructure: Contesting “Anti-Social Infrastructures” in London
Amy Horton and Joe Penny (2023)

Black Families, Damned Territories: Anti-Blackness and Black Motherhood in (White) Portuguese Parliamentary Debates (1995–2001)
Danielle Pereira de Araújo (2023)

Speculative Urban Worldmaking: Meeting Financial Violence with a Politics of Collective Care
Brandi T. Summers and Desiree Fields (2022)

“What is Our City Doing for Us?”: Placing Collective Care into Atlanta’s Post-Public Housing Movements
Akira Drake Rodriguez (2022)

A Logic of Care and Black Grassroots Claims to Home in Detroit
Jessi Quizar (2022)