Russian Media Discourse about Psychoneurological Residential-Care Institutions

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Ekaterina Rudneva


Special Care Institutions, Media Discourse, Critical Discourse Analysis, Political Correctness, Disabilities Discourse


Special care (psychoneurological) institutions for people with disabilities have started to draw more public attention in Russia. Some public organizations categorically oppose such asylums and produce TV reports investigating the way people are treated there and picturing these institutions as “prisons” for the innocent. Even though journalists and authorities are now forced to take more progressive ideologies into account, the discourse supporting the system of such institutions continues to be reproduced. The study aims to analyze modern discourses about such institutions and people who are isolated there. The data comprise seventeen video reports from 2012–2020. The main method is critical discourse analysis, with a particular focus on labeling people (229 cases). The main justifications behind the discourse supporting the system of special care institutions are: care about “the disadvantaged” and “the souls suffering from diseases”; “protecting” those who cannot live on their own; their “uniqueness” (which, being seemingly more politically correct, justifies isolation). The discourse opposing the system of asylums is backed and enacted by representatives of nongovernmental organizations and experts arguing that isolated people are often not ill, and shows successful “alumni” who have managed to escape from the “prison.” The role of the “patients” in nearly all analyzed video reports is limited to providing short answers or being in the background, and all reports reproduce the paternalistic ideology toward isolated people, albeit to different extents. The recent years can be described as a transition period when both discourses coexist, along with compromise outlooks on the residential care institutions.

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