Taking the Spell Off of Death: Media as Mourning Ritual in Russia’s Psychic Challenge

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Sergei Mokhov


Symbolic Immortality, Psychic Challenge, Grief and Mourning, Ritual


Modern Russian society can be seen as practicing both traditional and modern types of ritual mourning. On the one hand, it is not a traditional community with a shared structure of religious practices. On the other hand, a complex infrastructure of social and psychological support to bereaved people is not available yet. In such circumstances, the functions of mourning rituals—to work out fear of death, rebuild communities, and so forth—are delegated to other agents of discourse. This article argues that in contemporary Russia, one function of mourning rituals—acceptance of death—is performed by a TV show called Psychic Challenge. Following Nick Couldry’s position, I suppose that media can enact ritual. Psychic Challenge takes on the function of working out the fear of death and ritualizing grief. Televised mourning rituals use the basic strategy of working with symbolic immortality and drawing the viewer into their narratives. Psychic Challengecan thus be seen as a mediated ritual of mourning. In Russian, extended summary in English.
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