‘Trap Life’: The psychosocial underpinnings of street crime in inner-city London

Photo of a block of flats in London
Dr Ebony Reid
Date 13/02/2024 at 17.30 - 13/02/2024 at 19.00 Where Gatsby Room (Chancellor's Centre) & Zoom

How does socio-economic marginality and trauma underpin different criminal identities in contemporary London?

Photo of a block of flats in London


Through an ethnographic exploration of what disadvantaged urban men term ‘trap life’, this presentation demonstrates how different ‘trapper’ identities, enacted to manage economic, social, and psychological vulnerability allows an understanding of the varied motivations to take part in criminality and violence. Whilst the terms ‘dangerous’, ‘pathological’ and ‘criminal’ are deployed to account for street lifestyles, such stereotypical imagery with roots in history, media, political discourse, and policing practices, downplays the humanity of men living in the margins of society and neglects their version of reality. Far from being exclusively violent perpetrators, urban men are especially vulnerable as they are trapped in a never-ending existential crisis, which prevents successful transitions into mainstream life. I demonstrate that the issue of violence and the 21st century drug business must be placed in broader psychosocial contexts to provide a better understanding and perhaps one-day inform therapeutic and other practice interventions specially tailored to for those seeking to exit ‘trap life’.



Dr Ebony Reid is a criminologist and ethnographer who specialises in researching street crime and violence in inner-city London. She is interested in developing new psychosocial understandings of urban criminality. In her recent article published in the British Journal of Criminology, she explores how traumatic childhood events, socioeconomic factors, and cultural dynamics shape the psychology of urban drug dealers as they respond to existential suffering. Currently, she is working on her first book with a top literary publisher, aiming to turn the insights from her research into a character-driven story that can be enjoyed by a global audience.



This is a hybrid event, which will take place in-person in the Gatsby Room (Chancellor's Centre) and also on Zoom.

If you would like to attend online, please .

Refreshments will be available for the in-person audience.


The Humanities Society organises regular talks spanning a wide range of topics. Every Tuesday during term time.



This event will take place in Gatsby Room on the first floor of the Chancellor's Centre. It has step-free access with a lift and there is an accessible toilet located each floor of the building.

For more details please view our .

What's on

AI generated image of the Dictionary Craze in Enlightenment Europe

The Dictionary Craze in Enlightenment Europe (c. 1665–1800)

05/03/2024 at 17.30

How did people in eighteenth-century Europe react to the dictionary genre as a new information technology, and what can these reactions tell us about changing attitudes towards knowledge and learning in the age of Enlightenment?

Two sets of hands making a pot on a pottery wheel

Show me your bowl and I’ll tell you who you are

28/05/2024 at 17.30

How can material culture be used to reconstruct ancient human stories?