Marcus James McGee

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Chicago, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10526

Approve Date

April 6, 2023

Project Title

McGee, Marcus (Chicago, U. of) "Public Violence and Violent Publicity: Mexico City's "Red Press""

In Mexico City there is a popular genre of tabloid crime reporting known for its sardonic headlines and graphic photos of people killed in violent crime and accidents. Known as the nota roja (‘red press’), the genre has become increasingly controversial in the context of a so-called ‘drug war’ that has killed thousands over the past decade. Uptake of the genre is remarkably polarized; it appears alternatively as a form of ethical claim- making, an obscenity, or an instigator of violence. This project examines how people make sense of violence and how the concrete conditions of its public representation play a role in this process. It is anchored in long-term participant observation on the job with nota roja journalists, public debate about the genre, and online platforms where nota roja content recirculates. I draw on models from the ethnography of publicity to parse the ways people make sense of rupture, a process often emphasized by ethnographic accounts of mass violence. In so doing, I propose to center specific forms of circulation entailed but overlooked by ethnographies of violence, and leverage theories of publicity to complicate a foundational normative investment of classical public sphere theory: the separation of publicity and violence.