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Framing Russia: The construction of Russia and Chechnya in the western media.

Imagining Russia: A cultural discourse analysis of news coverage in the international media

Bearbeiter: Felicitas Macgilchrist
Finanzierung: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Abschluss: Januar 2009


This doctoral research project investigates the role of Russia for the contemporary German, UK and US media. Based on the assumption that discourse (language and other semiotic resources) is a form of social practice, close analysis of discourse can shed light on wider social practices, for example the media’s role in defining the principles of democracy, drawing borders between East and West, including or excluding political actors from global issues and perpetuating or transforming national stereotypes. Drawing on constructivist discourse theory (e.g. Fairclough 1995, Laclau & Mouffe 1985, Potter 1996) and Systemic Functional Analysis (Eggins 2004; Halliday 1985), this research follows Martin and Rose’s (2003) call for more Positive Discourse Analysis. PDA investigates what discourse does ‘well’, in order to enable others to successfully contest the established, dominant discourses.


Although this new direction in discourse analysis is growing, the majority of research has looked at texts on the margins of society. Very little research has investigated how counter-discourses manage to effectively challenge the mainstream discourse from within that mainstream space.


In order to investigate this, the dissertation focuses on the media coverage of Russia, Chechnya and the Russian-Chechen conflict. Contrary to the views of several analysts, there is no one, single, negative image of Russia; rather, several packages of information are presented to various reading communities as credible knowledge of Russia. This research attempts to systematically study (i) the structure and patterns of these packages of information, (ii) the semiotic means for creating ‘knowledge’ of Russia, Chechnya and conflict in the news media, and (iii) the ways in which a small minority of texts contest these widely accepted versions of reality.


No media analysis is complete without a discussion of media practices. Informed by news ethnographies (e.g. Cottle 2006, Hannerz 2004) and interviews with foreign correspondents, journalists and editors, this research also seeks to address issues of ideology and hegemony, without denying the validity of journalistic expertise, the necessary constraints of journalistic practice, and the challenges and strengths of global journalism.


For more information see:




Cottle, Simon. (2006). Mediatized Conflict. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Eggins, Suzanne. (2004). An Introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics (2nd ed.). London: Continuum.
Fairclough, Norman. (1995). Media Discourse. London: Edward Arnold.
Halliday, Michael. (1985). An Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Edward Arnold.
Hannerz, Ulf. (2004). Foreign News: Exploring the world of foreign correspondents. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
Laclau, Ernesto, & Mouffe, Chantal. (1985). Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Politics. London: Verso.
Martin, Jim, R., & Rose, David. (2003). Working with Discourse: Meaning beyond the clause. London, New York: Continuum.
Potter, Jonathon. (1996). Representing Reality. London: Sage.