The Denaturalization of Romanies in Italy: How Language and Image Work together

By Theresa Catalano.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study attempts to reveal how the denaturalization of Romanies (a.k.a. Roma) in Italy is accomplished by Italian media through the combination of linguistic strategies and non-verbal text such as photographs and videos. Both Social Semiotics and Critical Discourse Analysis are employed in combination with Social Identity and Nationalism theories to investigate linguistic strategies and images combined in texts to create a negative context model of this group in the eyes of the Italian public. Over 10 online newspaper crime reports from the years 2004–2010 are investigated as well as Italian government websites and videos. Data analysis includes an in-depth analysis of topics, lexical choice, metaphor, and images analyzed according to Jakobson’s model of the functions of language as well as other semiotic processes. Examples of images from texts are analyzed in context and their contribution to the overall message of the text is discussed in detail. Analysis reveals how images contribute to the processes of derogation and denaturalization and an underlying racist and xenophobic ideology in Italian media discourse regarding Romanies. This denaturalization of Romanies places them in the position of “scapegoat” which serves the dominant group’s purpose of staying in power and provides an excellent distraction from deficiencies in government policies and the economic downturn. The goal of this study is to serve as a springboard for social and political change through the uncovering of overwhelming evidence of how dominant ideologies (which are multi-modal in nature) are reproduced in the media and the serious consequences these dominated groups face due to the media’s contribution to the public’s mental representation of “Them”.

Keywords: Critical Discourse Analysis, Social Semiotics, Romanies, Italy, Denaturalization, Media Discourse

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.159-172. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.741MB).

Dr. Theresa Catalano

Assistant Professor of Second Language Education/Applied Linguistics, Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, USA

Theresa Catalano has a PhD in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching and a Master’s degree in English Language/Linguistics from the University of Arizona. Currently she is an Assistant Professor of Second Language Education/Applied Linguistics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research focuses on the link between language, ideology and the oppression of minority groups, as well as second and foreign language education.