Disciplinary Power and Impression Management in the Trials of the Stansted 15

Graeme Hayes*, Steven Cammiss, Brian Doherty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We bring Foucauldian and Goffmanian frameworks into dialogue to show how repressive and disciplinary power operate in the criminal trials of social movement activists. We do so through an ethnographic account of the trials on terrorism-related charges of a group of anti-deportation direct action protesters known as the Stansted 15, complemented by interviews with defendants. We argue that the prosecution of these activists on terrorism-related charges creates conditions of constraint which effectively serve to collapse the space for political and normative challenge, and obliges them to develop impression management strategies internalising and reproducing the court’s expressive regime. We see these trials therefore as a normalising procedure whose goal is not the repressive application of custodial sentences, but rather a disciplinary disarming of radical critique so that leniency can be applied. At stake here, therefore, is the production through trial of the ideal disciplined liberal political subject.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0
Issue number0
Early online date11 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Nov 2020

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This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).


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