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Conclusion

It has been argued that a contextualized interpretation needs to rely on textual analysis as well as a broader multi-modal consideration of such elements as related texts/genres, discourses, institutional frames of communication, historical aspects of text production, and the institutional embedding of texts. Such a broad contextualization may be necessary in the process of interpreting texts and discourses of covert racism, which tend to communicate their meanings in highly complex and indirect ways.

Racist discourse tends to operate on the level of presuppositions because it cannot be expressed more openly-on account of the existence of social and legal norms in modern democratic societies. As a result, such discourse is replete with allusions, presuppositions, shared knowledge, relexicalizations, etc. It relies on the recipients drawing the relevant inferences and conclusions themselves, yet retains the benefit of deniability should the utterances be attacked as socially unacceptable.

The analysis has shown that the considered election poster does not construct the opposition of “US vs. THEM”-either explicitly, or implicitly. However, it can be so interpreted in the context of the political history and career of this candidate, particularly in connection with her claim about not changing her rhetoric in the future, and in the context of current social and political events, i.e. media reports of an anti-Roma arson case. In other words, while the slogans and the multi-modal presentation of a public figure could be perceived as relatively innocent in other socio-cultural contexts and in the case of other candidates, this is not so with the case in point: in the case of Janackova, the reading of the advert as selling her racist standpoints appears to be legitimate, if not likely.

While with other figures, a box of matches handed out during an election campaign is only a box of matches, in this particular case, despite Janackova’s claims to the contrary, a box of matches becomes a symbol of racism, and hence a trigger for the “US vs. THEM” opposition. The matches become a tangible metaphor for dealing with perceived intergroup differences. It is important to note that it does not really matter whether or not the use of the matches as a racial symbol is intentional on the part of the originator of the message (i.e. the advertising agency responsible for creating the campaign materials or the politician herself). The crucial point is that the object was interpreted as such by a significant group of recipients as a result of their knowledge of the politician’s political and discursive history.

Thus, the prior personal statements and political ideas of the candidate contextualize both the slogan and the matches, which might otherwise have been considered relatively innocuous. The slogan in question is intentionally vague: it invites an intertextual interpretation in view of the politician’s prior discourses, but it fails to specify what exactly those beliefs are. It seems to leave the responsibility for drawing the relevant meanings only to the recipients, while allowing the politician the benefit of being able to deny any dispreferred or unacceptable meanings on account of its lack of explicitness.

 
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