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“I Am Burning, I Am Burning”: Affect, acid attacks and British tabloid newspapers

A Research Paper by Jacob Johanssen, published by Journalism Studies

This paper is co-authored by Jacob Johanssen and Diana Garrisi.

This article draws on studies that explore forms of contemporary journalism which focus on the role played by the expression of emotions and feelings. We present results from a qualitative study which examined how British tabloid newspapers covered acid attacks on women between 2010 and 2016. Drawing on the notion of affect, we explore the extent to which journalists try to turn painful embodied states into rational discourse. The data analysed suggest that such experiences cannot be completely captured by language. The journalists make use of particular narrative strategies focusing on the incident of the attack by highlighting how pain was experienced by the individual. This often results in the women being singled out and isolated. While there is some discussion of the contexts in which the violence occurred, the wider socio-cultural background is absent from the articles. We conclude that the focus on intense pain in the articles may enable a particular affective relationality to emerge that is felt by victims, journalists and audiences alike.


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Jacob Johanssen

About Jacob Johanssen

Jacob Johanssen's work revolves mainly around two themes: exploring Freudian psychoanalysis as a theory and method for media audience research with a particular focus on psychoanalytic conceptualisations of affect, as well as using psychoanalysis to think critically about contemporary digital culture more broadly.

His research interests include audience research, social media, digital labour, psychoanalysis and the media, affect theory, psychosocial studies, critical theory, as well as digital culture. His work has appeared in the International Journal of Cultural Studies, International Communication Gazette, and Interactions: Studies in Communication and Culture.


Jacob Johanssen
26 October 2017
Research Area
Published By
Journalism Studies
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