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Toxic Toxteth: understanding press stigmatization of Toxteth during the 1981 uprising.

Butler, Alice



This article investigates how the press stigmatized Toxteth during, and immediately following, the disturbances in 1981. It builds upon a body of literature on territorial stigmatization where there is a gap in understanding surrounding the production and formation of stigma. Drawing on the acceptance in literature that the media is a key contributor to territorial stigma, the author delves further to understand some of the techniques that the media uses to stigmatize place. The author engages in a combined quantitative and qualitative analysis of 496 newspaper articles from five British newspapers to examine how the press reports on Toxteth, and who constructs Toxteth’s identity. The author shows that the name of ‘Toxteth’ was largely defined by the media and that the residents of Toxteth were denied a voice in the press coverage in 1981 with fewer than 10 per cent of all articles quoting a resident. The author refers to this process as ‘stranger-making’, and it underscores the way that the media denied residents an ability to construct their own identity and the identity of their area. While stranger-making involves obfuscating the unique contours of Toxteth and silencing voices, the press simultaneously impose aspects of identity from a position of power through the techniques of naming, negativity, and oppositionality.


BUTLER, A. 2020. Toxic Toxteth: understanding press stigmatization of Toxteth during the 1981 uprising. Journalism [online], 21(4), pages 541-556. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 5, 2018
Online Publication Date Feb 6, 2019
Publication Date Apr 1, 2020
Deposit Date Jan 7, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jan 7, 2019
Journal Journalism
Print ISSN 1464-8849
Electronic ISSN 1741-3001
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 4
Pages 541-556
Keywords Marginality; Liverpool; Print media; Stigma; Territorial stigma; The press; Toxteth
Public URL


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