Gennady Slyshkin. Radiation in Mass Consciousness: Metaphor, Stereotype, Phobia

Public program accompanying Taryn Simon’s exhibition Action Research / The Stagecraft of Power
25 March 2016
8:00 pm – 9:00 pm


The widespread use of nuclear power has shifted the concept of radiation outside the boundaries of a purely scientific worldview and made it part of mass consciousness and everyday communication. After a number of disasters and scandals linked to the irresponsible use of the atom, radiation has begun to rank high on the list of public phobias. This talk will outline the mechanisms by which radiation metaphors appear in everyday language and stereotypical views of radiation in mass literature and folklore: secret and/or forgotten nuclear waste repositories, radioactive domestic objects, radioactive mutations, radiation as a lethal weapon (from detective novels to the Litvinenko affair), and the carnivalesque inversion of the fear of radiation in jokes ("Chernobyl apples," etc.). Particular attention will be given to the exploitation of radiation phobia in political and advertising discourses.


Gennady Slyshkin is a Professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. He is a specialist in linguistic culturology, the semiotics of popular culture, and text and discourse linguistics. According to the Russian Science Citation Index, Slyshkin is one of the 100 most cited Russian linguists.

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