Twin Towers: Grenfell and the World Trade Center

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talkResearch


When the Grenfell Tower fire happened, the similarity to the World Trade Center towers was striking: the initial incredulity at how this could be happening; the horror of the rapid spread and intensity of the blaze; people at windows for a time, waving for rescue; people jumping to their deaths; the sending of fire-fighters into the conflagration, disregarding protocols; the people watching in horror and helplessness from outside; and those on phones speaking to people trapped and dying. Other similarities emerged later: the lack of information or coordination; the confusing advice to stay put rather than evacuate; the solidarity of the community below; the missing posters; the memorial wall, where people added their reflections over the following days; the changing estimates of the numbers involved; the fact that many of those killed would not be known or reported missing because of their immigration status; and the question marks over identification of incinerated remains. However, while 9/11 became an almost immediate focus for international politics scholars, Grenfell has been largely ignored so far by those same people. The paper explores these similarities and dissonances, and the challenge posed to how we think of international politics. I contrast the slow violence of austerity, classism and racism with the swift justice that is meted out to Omega Mwaikambo, a Grenfell resident who took photographs of one of the people who jumped from the tower that night. I examine the ‘blackening’ of the community both before and after the fire and their on-going search for justice and recognition. The chapter assembles traces from the public domain of what happened to Mwaikambo into a narrative account that points to the complexities of the interactions between individuals, the police, and the courts after the fire, and highlights the inadequacy of procedures for the identification of those who died.
Period15 Jun 2018
Event titleBISA Annual Conference
Event typeConference
LocationBath, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational