Critical analysis of American representations of Russians

Leena M. Tomi

Abstract

Cultural differences have been shown to be social phenomena, arising in a complex reciprocal relationship between social actors and historical context. National character descriptions have also been shown to do ideological work. Language plays a crucial role in the construction of perceived reality, including perceived differences, and in the support of power structures. This study uses critical language analysis to uncover ideological frameworks behind cultural descriptions Americans have constructed of Russians. First, I will argue that American images of Russians became reified during the Cold War forming crucial building blocks in the ideological war between communism and anti-communism. I will show that linguistic strategies known to be used to gain symbolic control over the Other shaped these descriptions. I will then turn to the post-Cold War era and examine whether the change in ideological climate is reflected in current descriptions. The analysis shows the old descriptions and their familiar vocabulary to persist. Underlying reasons for the continued acceptance of the old descriptions are explored.

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