Book cover: The News Event: Popular Sovereignty in the Age of Deep Mediatization.
Book, South Asia, Asian Institute, Centre for South Asian Studies

The News Event: Popular Sovereignty in the Age of Deep Mediatization

In the hypermediated world of Tamil Nadu, Francis Cody studies how “news events” are made.

Not merely the act of representing events with words or images, a “news event” is the reciprocal relationship between the events being reported in the news and the event of the news coverage itself. In The News Event, Francis Cody focuses on how imaginaries of popular sovereignty have been remade through the production and experience of such events. Political sovereignty is thoroughly mediated by the production of news, and subjects invested in the idea of democracy are remarkably reflexive about the role of publicly circulating images and texts in the very constitution of their subjectivity. The law comes to stand as both a limit and positive condition in this process of event making, where acts of legal and extralegal repression of publication can also become the stuff of news about news makers. When the subjects of news inhabit multiple participant roles in the unfolding of public events, when the very technologies of recording and circulating events themselves become news, the act of representing a political event becomes difficult to disentangle from that of participating in it. This, Cody argues, is the crisis of contemporary news making: the news can no longer claim exteriority to the world on which it reports.


"This is the first major ethnographic study of the way in which the mobilization of a public is now carried out in India primarily through the new digitally powered mass media. From populist politics, court judgments, sensational crime and corruption to police brutality, Cody examines with brilliant clarity and theoretical sophistication the coming together of publics as well as counterpublics in Tamil Nadu."

- Partha Chatterjee, professor emeritus, Columbia University

"In this fascinating study, Cody shows how popular sovereignty is shaped within the media-saturated environment of Tamil Nadu politics, making sovereign power vulnerable to popular politics generated by the fact of the 'news event' and its circulation. His unraveling of the boundaries between online and offline communicative acts, the virtual and the actual, or the old media and new media, is accomplished with great sensitivity and attention to the empirical, which provides the grounds for the conceptual to emerge. A splendid achievement."

- Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University