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Palgrave Macmillan

Social Tragedy

The Power of Myth, Ritual, and Emotion in the New Media Ecology

ISBN 9781137386137
Publication Date June 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Cultural Sociology

In this volume, Baker introduces the concept of social tragedy to examine the circumstances in which social actors are moved to recognize and respond to suffering as a legitimate social concern. There is particular emphasis on the ways in which individuals collectively represent the social significance of tragedy, and how certain incidents assume ethical gravity and coherence while others remain distant or disregarded. Social Tragedy focuses on the power of meaningful narratives to move audiences to feel and think about suffering as a cause for moral action. Baker suggests that understanding how a social tragedy becomes meaningful involves examining the role of myth, ritual, and emotion in the construction and reception of the plot (muthos). She also analyzes the role of communication media in the representation of tragedy, noting how these mediums have developed and the social impact of their emergence

Stephanie Alice Baker is a Researcher in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK.

1. Introduction: Plato's Challenge
2. What is Social Tragedy?
3. Performing Social Tragedy: Exploring the "new British spirit" a Decade Beyond the Death of Princess Diana
4. Recalling Social Tragedy: Staging Zinédine Zidane's Transgression on France's Postcolonial Arena
5. Mediating Social Tragedy: The 2011 English Riots and the Emergence of the "mediated crowd"
6. Mediation as Moral Education: KONY 2012 - Can Social Tragedies Teach?
7. Conclusion: Social Tragedy's Democratic Vision


"Social Tragedy illuminates the contours of late modernity by reviving—and revitalizing—the social ethics of Plato and Aristotle as a means of understanding our commitments and vulnerabilities enacted through the rituals in which we find ourselves, as participants and spectators. Baker's achievements in this book are immense, linking our media-mediated experiences with classic imagery in an accessible text as thoughtful as it is insightful." - Jack Barbalet, Chair Professor in Sociology, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong SAR China
"Philosophically sophisticated and political relevant Baker's book includes a dizzying array of case studies that fascinate and surprise, from the death of Diana Princess of Wales to Zinedine Zidane's coup de boule. A wonderful read offering a new repertoire of ideas to understand the relationship between the tragic and social life." - Les Back, Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
"Social tragedy is usually mediated through pity and fear. The disturbing dislocation in order which is the raw nub of tragedy is hijacked and used as a launching pad for reflections on power, justice and democracy. Baker's book is scene-changing. By adroitly relating tragedy to myth and social transformation it provides that most unexpected thing: an optimistic reading of tragedy. Her book lays down the twin challenges of relating personal tragedy to tragic times, and offers a compelling account of why society needs the raw nub of disturbing dislocation. This is cultural sociology with its eyes wide open: a recommended and admirable achievement." - Chris Rojek, Professor of Sociology, City University, UK
"Stephanie Alice Baker's erudite, path-breaking book enlists Aristotle, Plato and Durkheim (among others) in making sense of the mediated performance of emotion, astutely applying her concept of 'social tragedy' to subjects as diverse as Lady Diana's funeral, Zinedine Zidane's infamous head-butt, English street riots, KONY 2012, Occupy and the Arab Spring. This smart cultural sociological take on collective representation makes a compelling case for social tragedy's capacity to guide moral action and stimulate political change." - David Rowe, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, Australia
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