Some concept of mass publicity is foundational for a number of theories of democratic self-determination, but the subject of publicity is radically dependent on technologies of representation for its own self-identity. Research on newspapers and the public sphere is valuable because it has focused on this paradox of mediation at the center of modern political life. Whereas liberal theories of the public sphere sought to distinguish a rational reading public forged through a dialectic self-abstraction from what Habermas once termed “pressure from the street,” recent work on the politics of the crowd and that of the reading public reveals a closer relationship. Drawing on research about the history of print capitalism in southern India, Cody’s essay seeks to come to theoretical terms with a democratic public sphere where physical force is deeply intertwined with the printed word.

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