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Risk narrations and perceptions in the COVID-19 time. A discourse analysis through the Italian press

Dipartimento Culture e Società, Università degli Studi di Palermo, Italy

Special Issues: Sustainability and Risk Perception: multidisciplinary approaches

This paper explores how the risk related to the pandemic of COVID-19 was managed, narrated and perceived in Italy during the lockdown phase, from February until June 2020. To reach this aim, the study provides a discourse analysis of three main level: the official institutional discourses declaimed by the government and the health authority; the risk narration spread through the diaphragm of the Italian press, and specifically through two of the most-read newspapers in Italy (Repubblica and Corriere della Sera) and their related weeklies (Venerdì di Repubblica and Sette); finally, the diverse reactions and perceptions to the risk coming from the most affected and most vulnerable subjects, communities and territories.
In order to record this narrative frame, our study started by looking for the more recurrent keywords through which the public discourse about COVID-19 emergency was spread in Italy. The examined words, together with a literary review about risk, disaster, and sustainability, give back, and allow to understand, the mirror of the risk management, perception, and narration in the pandemic society. According to the Foucault’s thought, a constant theoretical reference has been the power control exerted in the plague city.
In this article we show in a nutshell some of the main elements emerged through this discourse analysis. Firstly, it comes to light how the world has been caught totally unprepared to manage collectively a pandemic of this magnitude. Secondly, two main emergency consequences emerged. Indeed, if on one hand the risk management created privileges and inequalities, on the other hand the risk perception led to communities’ practices of solidarity and resilience. Finally, our research demonstrates what is depicted in the reported literary review: disasters are unevenly and differential phenomena.
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Keywords COVID-19; discourse analysis; emergency; Italian press; policies; risk management

Citation: Giulia de Spuches, Francesca Sabatini, Gabriella Palermo, Emanuela Caravello. Risk narrations and perceptions in the COVID-19 time. A discourse analysis through the Italian press. AIMS Geosciences, 2020, 6(4): 504-514. doi: 10.3934/geosci.2020028


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