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Interrogating the Public Health Approach: Lessons from the Field of Urban Violence

Armstrong, G. ORCID: 0000-0002-4155-0813 & Rosbrook-Thompson, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-3237-3368 (2022). Interrogating the Public Health Approach: Lessons from the Field of Urban Violence. Urbanities - Journal of Urban Ethnography, 12(6),


Governmental responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have brought public health discourse to the fore in societies around the world. The public health idiom had already made serious inroads into understandings of, and attempts to address, urban violence (particularly among young men). With COVID-19 almost inevitably becoming ‘endemic’, the role of public health discourse will only become further entrenched and extend to the analysis of a wider range of societal ‘ills’ (not all of which are directly connected with COVID-19 and other Corona viruses). This article seeks to analyse the application of the public health approach to attempts to address urban violence using fieldwork conducted in London. As explained more fully below, the fieldwork was carried out in a number of settings across the English capital, between 2009 and 2018. We are especially interested in interrogating the public health model on its own terms. For example: What is the disease? How are symptoms identified and gauged? Who are the victims? How is the ‘cure’ formulated and administered? And how is recovery from the social ill of urban violence captured and calibrated? More prosaically, while we know about some of the theoretical-conceptual implications of viewing urban violence through a public health frame (Riemann 2019), we know less about how these implications play out in the everyday settings wherein agencies are expected to work together to combat urban violence

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article was originally published in Urbanities, 12, Suppl. No 16, April 2022, and is available at
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
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