“Je Suis Charlie” and the Digital Mediascape: The Politics of Death in the Charlie Hebdo Mourning Rituals

Open access


This article examines rituals of mourning in the digital mediascape in the case of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, 2015. The idea of the digital mediascape draws on Arjun Appadurai’s (1990) seminal work on mediascape and develops it further in the current framework of digital media. Rituals of mourning are approached as a response and a reaction to the anxiety and distress caused by the unexpected violent death of global media attention. The phenomenology of ritual practices in Charlie Hebdo is characterised as multi-layered, relational and coexisting. The article looks in particular at the ritual mourning in association with the message and the meme “Je suis Charlie”. The ‘imagined worlds’ created around the digital circulation of this ritual message are discussed in relation to the idea of the politics of death formed around such fundamental value-laden questions as whose life counts as life and is thus worthy of public recognition of mourning, as Judith Butler (2004) has asked.

Al Jazeera 2015 = Anti-Charlie Hebdo Protest Held in Chechnya. - Al Jazeera. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2015/01/anti-charlie-hebdo-protest-held-chechnya-201511910042173574.html (accessed February 5, 2017).

Alderman, Liz and Dan Bilefsky. 2015. Huge Show of Solidarity in Paris Against Terrorism. - New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/12/world/europe/paris-march-against-terrorcharlie-hebdo.html?_r=0 (accessed February 5, 2017).

Appadurai, Arjun. 1990. Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy. - Theory, Culture & Society 7 (2): 295-310. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/026327690007002017.

Asad, Talal. 2009. Free Speech, Blasphemy and Secular Criticism - Is Critique Secular? Blasphemy, Injury and Free Speech, co-authored by Talal Asad, Wendy Brown, Judith Butler and Saba Mahmood. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 20-63.

Bauman, Zygmunt. 2000. Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity.

Bell, Catherine. 1997. Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Boellstorff, Tom. 2008. Coming of Age in Second Life. An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Boumans, Jelle W. and Damian Trilling. 2016. Taking Stock of the Toolkit. - Digital Journalism 4 (1): 8-23. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/21670811.2015.1096598.

Brown, Wendy. 2009. Introduction. - Is Critique Secular? Blasphemy, Injury and Free Speech, coauthored by Talal Asad, Wendy Brown, Judith Butler and Saba Mahmood. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 7-19.

Butler, Judith. 2004. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London: Verso.

Carrier, Dan. 2015. We Are Charlie: ‘Freedom of Speech Needs to Be Strongly Defended’. - The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/09/we-are-charlie-guardian-eventcharlie-hebdo (accessed February 7, 2017).

Coleman, Simon and John Elsner. 1998. Performing Pilgrimage: Walsingham and the Ritual Construction of Irony. - Ritual, Performance, Media, edited by Felicia Hughes-Freeland. London: Routledge, 46-65.

Davies, Douglas. 2002. Death, Ritual and Belief: The Rhetoric of Funerary Rites. London: Continuum.

Derné, Steve. 2008. Globalization on the Ground. New Media and the Transformation of Culture, Class, and Gender in India. New Delhi: Sage. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4135/9788132100386.

Derquenne, Eloïse. 2015. Je Suis Charlie Hebdo - Hommage/Tribute. - YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gpsYWYkq6U (accessed February 5, 2017).

Devichand, Mukul. 2016. How the World Was Changed by the Slogan ‘Je Suis Charlie’. - BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-35108339 (accessed February 7, 2017).

Eade, John and Michael J. Sallinow, eds. 1999. Contesting the Sacred: The Anthropology of Christian Pilgrimage. London: Routledge.

Fassin, Didier and Richard Rechtman. 2009. The Empire of Trauma. An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Grimes, Ronald L. 2014. The Craft of Ritual Studies. Oxford; New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Guardian 2015 = British Muslims Gather in London to Protest against Muhammad Cartoons. - The

Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/08/british-muslims-london-protestagainst-muhammad-cartoon-charlie-hebdo (accessed February 5, 2017).

Guichard, Aurelien. 2015. Charlie Hebdo. - Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/aguichard/16254508561, (accessed February 19, 2017).

Handelman, Don 2004a. Introduction: Why Ritual in Its Own Right? How So? - Social Analysis 48 (2): 1-32.

Handelman, Don 2004b. Epilogue: Toing and Froing the Social. - Social Analysis 48 (2): 213-222.

Hine, Christine. 2015. Ethnography for the Internet. Embedded, Embodied and Everyday. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

H.KoPP. 2015. Je Suis Charlie drawing. - Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/kopp1963/16225452565 (accessed February 19, 2017).

Inda, Jonathan Zavier and Renato Rosaldo. 2008. The Anthropology of Globalization. A Reader. 2nd edn. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

JB Bullet. 2015. #JeSuisCharlie - JB Bullet. - YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bjbUg9d64g (accessed February 5, 2017).

Kapferer, Bruce. 2004. Ritual Dynamics and Virtual Practice: Beyond Representation and Meaning. - Social Analysis 48 (2): 35-54. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3167/015597704782352591.

Kozinets, Robert. 2015. Netnography: Redefined. 2nd edn. London: Sage. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118767771.wbiedcs067.

Lichfield, John. 2015. Paris March: Global Leaders Join ‘Unprecedented’ Rally in Largest Demonstration in History of France. - Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/world-leaders-gather-for-freedom-march-in-paris-as-million-expected-atrally-9970512.html (accessed February 7, 2017).

Metcalf, Peter and Richard Huntington. 1997. Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Metcalf, Peter. 2001. Global “Disjuncture” and the “Sites” of Anthropology. - Cultural Anthropology 16 (2): 165-182. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/can.2001.16.2.165.

Mullin, Gemma and Darren Boyle. 2015. Paris Goes Dark for Charlie Hebdo: Eiffel Tower’s Lights Are Turned off as Vigils Are Held around Globe for 12 Victims Slaughtered by Fanatics. - Daily Mail Online. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2902025/France-comes-standstillremember-Charlie-Hebdo-victims-people-worldwide-join-poignant-vigil.html (accessed March 12, 2017).

Ortelpa, Olivier. 2015. Paris rally in support of the victims of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting, 11 January 2015. Place de la Republique. - Creative Commons/Flickr https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Je_suis_Charlie,_Paris_11_January_2015.jpg (accessed February 19, 2017).

Paris 16. 2015. The Scream. - Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Scream_-_Je_suis_Charlie_B%26W.svg (accessed February 19, 2017).

Postill, John and Sarah Pink. 2012. Social Media Ethnography: The Digital Researcher in a Messy Web. - Media International Australia 145: 123-134. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1329878X1214500114.

Potet, Frédéric. 2015. «Je suis Charlie», c’est lui. - Le Monde. http://www.lemonde.fr/m-actu/article/2015/01/09/je-suis-charlie-c-est-lui_4552523_4497186.html (accessed February 7, 2017).

Sabin, Lamiat. 2015. Muslims Protest on Whitehall against Charlie Hebdo Cartoons of Prophet Mohamed. - Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/muslims-protest-against-cartoons-of-prophet-mohamed-in-face-of-britain-first-counter-demo-10032912.html (accessed February 7, 2017).

striks Vindicta. 2015. Vidéo de l’Hommage Mondiale à Charlie Hebdo. - YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNMPxqCVFlc (accessed February 5, 2017).

Sumiala, Johanna. 2013. Media and Ritual. Death, Community and Everyday Life. London; New York, NY: Routledge.

Sumiala, Johanna; Minttu Tikka, Jukka Huhtamäki and Katja Valaskivi 2016. #JeSuisCharlie: Towards a Multi-Method Study of Hybrid Media Events. - Media and Communication, 4 (4): 97-108. DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v4i4.593.

Tsing, Anna. 2004. Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Turner, Victor. 1969. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. London: Routledge and Kegan.

van Gennep, Arnold. 1960. The Rites of Passage. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Zimmermann, Jean-Benoît. 2015. Marseille rally in support of the victims of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting. - Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marseille_-_Je_suis_Charlie_-_10_Janvier_2015_(5).jpg (accessed April 4, 2017).

Journal Information

Cited By


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 200 200 14
PDF Downloads 99 99 12