Performing Disinformation: A Muddled History of the Concept and Its Consequences

Date / Time

February 28, 2024

5:00 pm - 7:30 pm

The Institute for the Humanities SEENEXT Working Group presents, “Performing Disinformation: A Muddled History of the Concept and Its Consequences.”

Today “disinformation” is one of the most used concepts in global public discourses. It is usually employed in mirroring accusations that political adversaries level against each other. In parallel, Disinformation Studies is now a rapidly growing academic field. It is dominated by different types of quantitative analysis which tends to reduce complex, manipulated narratives to measurable data. In this research, it is often assumed that “disinformation” can be universally defined and identified through fact- checking. A historical perspective on the uses of the concept of disinformation demonstrates; however, that it has been applied to vastly different phenomena and its meaning has been changing over time, as well as across linguacultural and geopolitical divides. This lecture will discuss how the historically contingent and contested meanings of the polemical rhetoric of disinformation have been circulating and mutating from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day in Anglophone, German and Russophone cultural contexts. Through the analysis of the multilingual media coverage of one contentious issue, a model of studying what disinformation can mean in different settings will be offered.

Vera Tolz is Sir William Mather Professor of Russian studies at the University of Manchester. Her recent monographs include “Nation, Ethnicity and Race on Russian Television” and “‘Russia’s Own Orient’: The Politics of Identity and Oriental Studies in the Late Imperialand Early Soviet Periods.” She is currently working on a new project “(Mis)Translating Deceit during and after the Cold War.”

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