ZKF-Arbeitsgespräche im Wintersemester 21/22

(Mis)translating Deceit: Disinformation's Hidden Translingual Journey



Prof. Vera Tolz, Prof. Stephen Hutchings (both: University of Manchester)


Dr. Maria Zhukova

Datum: 2021-11-10


Despite growing concern about disinformation, lack of knowledge about how the term originated, or how uses of that term change over time and across different languages and cultures, is seriously hampering our ability to counter it. Profs. Stephen Hutchings and Vera Tolz (the University of Manchester, UK) will present a paper that tells part of the story of disinformation's hidden journey. Hutchings and Tolz link inattention to disinformation’s multi-dimensional journey with the growth of what has recently been termed the 'Big Disinfo' industry (the burgeoning of disinformation monitoring and countering initiatives), in whose interests it is to simplify, conflate or ignore disinformation’s numerous border crossings. This, we argue, merely plays into the hands of the authoritarian actors most guilty of disinformation practices. The paper draws on research carried out in a range of different national language corpora, allowing the speakers to pinpoint how the meanings and uses of the term 'disinformation' have changed over time and between cultures, and how those different meanings have shaped both one another, and their associated practices. The paper also presents two examples of key narratives identified by contemporary disinformation trackers, demonstrating the perils of failing to account for the linguistic, cultural, and historical contexts in which those narratives are embedded. 

About the authors:

Stephen Hutchings is Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Manchester. Author and co-author of 6 monographs on aspects of Russian media and culture, he is a Fellow of the UK’s Academy of Social Sciences and former President of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies.

Vera Tolz is Sir William Mather Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Manchester. Her most recent books are Nation, Ethnicity and Race on Russian Television: Mediating Post-Soviet Difference (with Stephen Hutchings) and ‘Russia’s Own Orient’: The Politics of Identity and Oriental Studies in the Late Imperial and Early Soviet Periods. In 2012-2016, she was Co-Director of the UK’s national Centre for Language-Based East European Area Studies. She is a Fellow of the UK’s Academy of Social Sciences.