Sticky violence

Zelizer, B. (2023). Sticky violence. International Journal of Communication, 17, 1383–1389.


Open access: Yes

Notes: In this afterword to the special issue on mediated violence, Zelizer discusses the uneven relationship between violence and visibility/recognition. She foregrounds this essay by noting that there is a troubled assumption that seeing violence often leads to action and responsiveness. However, the visibility of violence often fails to promote any responsiveness. In this context, visibility and recognition should be seen as a spectrum, moving on two particular variables. First, they are read differently by different people. Secondly, the mediation of violence through various media is also uneven and multidimensional.

As a response (and resonating with Ahmed’s work), Zelizer notes that violence is sticky: “Violence hangs around as a reminder to those inhabiting democracies that it lurks, ready to pounce when conditions are favorable. As violence molds to external compounds and shapes, resists predictability and prompts recognition of its harms at different stages of its intensification, its stickiness demands attention. Making violence visible thus figures centrally into the democratic project for all of the reasons, hopeful and critical, that this collection of articles elucidates.”

Abstract: This article addresses the uneven relationship between violence and visibility. It argues that there is a disconnect between the rising incidence of violent encounters and existing ways of understanding the process by which they are made visible. It calls for a reformulation of the longstanding assumption of action in response to visual cues.

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