‘Our words are stronger’: Re-enforcing boundaries through ritual work in a terrorist news event

Johanna Sumiala, Tiina Räisä

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This article investigates the ritual work in terrorist news events, using the Berlin truck attack as a case in point. The article connects with the larger cluster of anthropologically inspired communication research on media events as public rituals in news media and applies digital media ethnography as its method. Fieldwork is conducted in 15 online news sites. The article identifies three key phases through which the ritual work was carried out: the rupture in the news event (ritualised as the strike), the liminal phase (ritualised as the manhunt) and the reconstitution of order following the attack (ritualised as the mourning). The article concludes with an interpretation of the broader social implications of the ritual work and related naturalisation of ‘friends’ and ‘foes’ and suggests that this type of ritual work contributes to a collective mythologisation of terrorism in news media and society at large.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)422-438
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 518 Media and communications
  • Berlin truck attack
  • digital media ethnography
  • media anthropology
  • media event
  • online news
  • othering
  • ritual work
  • terror

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