Humiliation's Media Cultures: On the Power of the Social to Oblige Us

Cefai, Sarah. 2020. Humiliation's Media Cultures: On the Power of the Social to Oblige Us. New Media & Society, 22(7), pp. 1287-1304. ISSN 1461-4448 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Humiliation, which Silvan Tomkins paired with shame (‘shame-humiliation’), has not received much attention in queer, feminist and cultural analysis. This article addresses this omission by putting forward an account of humiliation’s eventful ‘structure of feeling’. In line with Raymond Williams’ original conception, and in conversation with affect studies, my account links humiliation’s structure to the broader socio-political tensions it articulates: especially, the tension between individualisation and collective social experience within neoliberalism. The cultural economy of reputation in particular reveals how, from within the eventful structure of humiliation, we become attuned to the social as that which affectively obliges us. By mediating the affective obligation of the social, media cultures train us in an affective sociality. My analysis questions the deeper reasoning that subtends humiliation and the repercussions of the affective obligation of the social for how we think about culture, identity and power in the context of networked media.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Affect, humiliation, identity, injury, shame, social media, social status, neoliberalism, networked media, culture, power

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


27 July 2019Accepted
22 July 2020Published Online
July 2020Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

12 Aug 2019 08:31

Last Modified:

14 Jun 2021 21:00

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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