“Blame-Games” and “Blame Avoidance”

Discursive Strategies in Times of COVID-19
Seminars and Colloquia

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world both dramatically and irrevocably. For months, politics and media have focused on COVID-19 and the countless facets of its impact of ever more uncertainty and insecurity in our lives. Following Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Fear (2006) and Wodak’s The Politics of Fear (2021), it has become evident that a “politics of fear (and hope)” has been reinforced and instrumentalized by numerous national governments, in significantly different ways. Accordingly, the range of discourses appear to have changed equally dramatically, in terms of both subject matter and discursive practices. Has the pandemic truly altered the strategies and mechanisms of mediatized politics? Which well-understood/well-studied discursive patterns and trends – including interdiscursivity, (re)nationalization, securitization – and which discursive strategies – like the blame-game (Rheindorf & Wodak 2018) and blame avoidance (Hansson 2015) are still to be found in times of COVID-19, perhaps in altered forms? Some may have been marginalized, while the pandemic may have acted as a catalyst for others. Drawing on the Discourse-historical Approach (DHA) in Critical Discourse Studies (CDS), we will raise such questions and attempt to answer them through theoretical considerations and empirical evidence.



Ruth Wodak is Em. Distinguished Professor and Chair in Discourse Studies at Lancaster University and University of Vienna. She is a recurrent Visiting Fellow at the IWM.

Markus Rheindorf is Lecturer of Applied Linguistics at University of Vienna. From February to September 2020 he was a Visiting Fellow at the IWM.

Bauman, Z. (2006) Liquid Fear. Cambridge: Polity.
Hansson, S. (2015) ‘Discursive strategies of blame avoidance in government: A framework for analysis’, Discourse & Society, 26(3): 297–323.
Rheindorf, M.  and Wodak, R. (2018) ‘ ‘Borders, fences and limits – protecting Austria from refugees: Metadiscursive negotiations of meaning in the current refugee crisis’, Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies 16(1–2): 15–38.
Wodak, R. (2021) The politics of fear: the shameless normalization of far-right populist discourse. London: Sage (2nd extended and revised edition).

Postponed from September 14, 2020