Affect and the Response to Terror: Commemoration and Communities of Sense

Angharad Closs Stephens, Martin Coward, Samuel Merrill, Shanti Sumartojo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines affective responses to terror and the emergence of communities of sense in the commemoration of such attacks. We challenge the predominant framing of responses to terror which emphasize security and identity. We focus on the singular response by the city of Manchester in the aftermath of the 2017 Arena bombing, drawing on fieldwork conducted at the 1-year anniversary commemorative events. Our discussion focuses on the ways improvised, transient communities crystallized around the cultural significance of music during these events. The article explores these communities of sense through two case studies: those drawn together around the figure of Ariane Grande; and those assembled through a mass sing-along. In contrast to national or municipal responses to terror which orchestrate affect to establish narratives about security, borders and identity, we argue for the importance of paying attention to the improvised, affective ways in which people respond to terror. These plural, affective responses suggest another form of collective subjectivity. They also demonstrate the transient, plural, and everyday ways in which politics is practiced, assembled, and negotiated by different publics in response to terror.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-40
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Political Sociology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021

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