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Information and Disinformation Discourses of Cholera Epidemics in Latvian Media

Fri, May 27, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Denny Hall, 259


The population was affected by several serious cholera epidemics in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The largest epidemics broke out in 1831, 1848, 1853, 1858, 1866, and 1871 in the provinces of Kurland, Livland and Vitebsk, and tens of thousands of people died in them. The press as the mass media of that time played an important role in informing the audience about the epidemiological crisis and people's behavior at that time. The press materials of this time are an important source in the history of crisis communication and testify of the role of the dailies and weeklies as an information channel in an emergency situation. In the research the press publications of a given period in Latvian, German and Russian were analyzed using the discourse-historical approach by Ruth Wodak. The main discourses were identified: statistical discourse; discourse on security measures; discourse of respect for doctors and medicine; power (tsar, governor, police) care discourse; discourse of proper lifestyle and health; discourse of discipline; discourse of trust in God; accident discourse; discourse of condemnation of disinformation; discourse of condemnation of rumors and bearer of rumors.

Short Bio

Vita Zelče holds a PhD in History. She is Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Senior Researcher at the Advanced Social and Political Research Institute in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Latvia. Zelče has been a fellow of the IREX, Fulbright and BAFF programs. Her research interests include women and gender history, history of media, cultural memory, ritual communication, social history, media representations, national identity. She is the author and/or editor of several monographs and collections of paper. Her latest articles have been published in Europe-Asia Studies, East European Politics and Societies, Journal of Baltic Studies, The History of the Family. ORCID: 0000-0002-5169-8862.

Marita Zitmane is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Latvia, where she teaches courses on gender and media, advertising, and consumer culture. She has been Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITN scholar. She is interested in gender representation in media and in advertising. Her work examines how the media has shaped the notion of gender roles in post-Soviet society and how past notions of gender roles shape contemporary gender equality discourse. She is an author of several publications on gender representation in media and has participated in international conferences on Gender and Women’s studies. She also serves as a gender equality expert. ORCID: 0000-0002-1672-9520