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The Dynamics of Mediatized Conflicts

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Edited By Mikkel Fugl Eskjær, Stig Hjarvard and Mette Mortensen

This book engages with the mediatized dynamics of political, military and cultural conflicts. In today’s global and converging media environment, the interrelationship between media and conflict has been altered and intensified. No longer limited to the realms of journalism and political communication, various forms of new media have allowed other social actors to communicate and act through media networks. Thus, the media not only play an important role by reporting conflicts; they have also become co-constitutive of the ways conflicts develop and spread.
The first part of the book, Transnational Networks, addresses the opportunities and challenges posed by transnational media to actors seeking to engage in and manage conflicts through new media platforms. The second part, Mobilising the Personal: Crossing Public and Private Boundaries, concerns the ways in which media framings of conflicts often revolve around personal aspects of public figures. The third part, Military, War, and Media, engages with a classic theme of media studies – the power relationship between media, state, and military – but in light of the mediatized condition of modern warfare, in which the media have become an integrated part of military strategies.
The book develops new theoretical arguments and a series of empirical studies that are essential reading for students and scholars interested in the complex roles of media in contemporary conflicts.
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Chapter Five: Ritual Performance in Mediatized Conflict: The Death of a Princess and a Prime Minister

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CHAPTER FIVE

Ritual Performance IN Mediatized Conflict

The Death of a Princess and a Prime Minister

JOHANNA SUMIALA



MEDIA AND CONTROVERSIAL PUBLIC DEATH

This chapter examines the ritual performance of public death in the media, with special emphasis on high-profile deaths associated with conflict and/or controversy. The analysis focuses on two intensively mediatized moments in recent history: the death of Princess Diana in 1997 and that of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 2013.1 The concept of public death refers to certain conditions under which the media give visibility to someone’s death, and consequently make it a shared public event. Many studies point out that the media, particularly the mass media, value certain deaths and certain ways of dying over others (see, e.g., Seaton, 2005; Zelizer, 2010). In the logic of the mainstream and mass media, the type of death most likely to attract public attention is the kind that can be perceived as exceptional or uncommon, where the deceased has high symbolic value and/or the number of victims is considerable (see, e.g., Hanusch, 2010). Characteristic of these features is that they themselves are normative claims subject to public negotiation and therefore controversy (e.g., Who has the power to claim a certain death’s symbolic value over others, what is considered exceptional and uncommon, and under which conditions?). In the introduction to this volume, Hjarvard, Mortensen, and Eskjær offer the following definition of conflict: ← 111...

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