It is the project's aim to underscore the fundamental and sometimes problematic role of news discourse in political conflicts, where it shapes perceptions, creates identities and influences attitudes. In particular, the study illustrates the impact of translation on the news production process. Translation is considered as a discursive practice in its own right, and an ideal arena to reframe existing text and talk in oftentimes very subtle, and therefore highly effective, ways.
An initial number of case studies focuses on the coverage of the Crimean conflict by the Russian news translation website InoSMI, an internet portal owned by Rossiya Segodnya. The website monitors global media and provides Russian translations of newspaper articles.
We draw on Critical Discourse Analysis and framing in order to grasp the complex relations between text and society – (translated) news products on the one hand, and attitudes, interpretations and evaluations regarding the Crimean conflict, on the other. A ‘socially constitutive as well as socially shaped’ practice (Fairclough and Wodak 1997, 258), discourse indeed forms a hinge point between text and context. Van Dijk posits a similar dialectic relationship, which he applies specifically to news discourse: while social and institutional constraints are ‘enacted or translated at the micro level of news discourse and its processing’, news reports, as a form of public discourse, also condition readers to develop specific social, political, cultural and economic frameworks that help them interpret societal events (van Dijk 1988, 182-183).
Frame analysis proves to be an excellent tool to map these intricate relationships and measure the impact of socio-political reality on individual choices – and vice versa. Goffman coined the term ‘frame’ in his 1974 seminal work to refer to those ‘principles of organisation which govern events […] and our subjective involvement in them’ (Goffman 1974, 10-11). Socially shared and persistent, but at the same time largely unacknowledged, frames help us structure the social world and understand ‘what is going on’. Drawing on Entman’s research, de Vreese provides a more ‘active’ definition of a (media) frame, describing it as ‘an emphasis in salience of different aspects of a topic’ (de Vreese 2005, 53; see also Entman 1993, 52 and Gitlin 1980, 7). ‘News framing’, then, comes down to organising news discourse by selecting and foregrounding certain elements out of a mass of information, and excluding others. Specific frames can be promoted through a large number of linguistic and non-linguistic resources, including word choice, visual features and paratextual devices (Gamson and Modigliani 1989).
Translation can also be considered a form of discursive practice, both reflecting and shaping social and institutional structures. Translations are never ‘neutral’ and ‘transparent’ but rather ‘untidy and partial’, always embedded in particular historical, cultural, institutional and political contexts that determine their meaning and impact (Hermans 2002, 11; Ieţcu-Fairclough 2008; Tymoczko 2007, xviii). These contexts are significantly different from the original context, and deternmine not only translation strateiges but translation goals and impact. Not surprisingly, translation studies has since long pursued a more critical understanding of translation in terms of power (Tymoczko and Gentzler 2002). Translation is not just a form of ‘relayed communication’; in fact, it appears as the par excellence arena to reconfigure and ‘reframe’ existing discourse through more or less subtle shifts (Baker 2006, see also Schäffner 2004).
In this project, we will probe into the different translation strategies that can be considered 'framing' devices, thereby focusing on the construction of (opposing) group identities. According to Hall, who has himself conducted ample research into the influence of media on perceptions of group identity, ‘identities’ are ‘points of temporary attachment to the subject positions which discursive practices construct for us’ (Hall 1996, 5). It is in discourse that sameness and difference are constructed, and in- and outgroups labelled, especially in political or institutional contexts (see also de Cillia, Reisigl and Wodak 1999). The project explores how cultural understandings of group identities are created, reinforced or contested in media discourse on major political conflicts, and reframed through translation.