P121
Conspiracy theories and conspiracy practices: moving between rationalities

Convenors:
Theodoros Rakopoulos (University of Oslo)
Steven Sampson (Lund University)
Stream:
Panels
Location:
Aula Magna-Bergsmannen
Start time:
14 August, 2018 at 10:30
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

Conspiracy theory is a vehicle for both the powerless and the powerful. This panel seeks contributions examining conspiratorial hyperrationality, from political elites seeking support, social movements trying to speak truth to power, or fringe groups who 'trust no one'.

Long abstract:

The continued vitality (and possible growth) of conspiracy theories, here understood as secret plots by actors intent on political domination, is an intellectual practice popular among both elites and masses. Conspiracy theories are promoted by Trump and his supporters condemning 'the deep state', by contemporary social movements of the left and right, and by on-line communities intent on 'unmasking' secret plots or explaining disasters by assembling evidence and 'connecting the dots'. Seen anthropologically, conspiracy theories are alternative paths to knowledge whose actors see themselves as 'truth-tellers' in a milieu which may be ignorant or hostile to their message. In the mainstream culture, most conspiracy theories have remained marginal or at best entertaining, but this has only made the truth-tellers more determined. This combination of vitality and marginality, of outlandish reason, truth-searching and political critique, lends itself to an anthropological inquiry into conspiratorial discourse and practice. Our panel aims at understanding ethnographic practices branded as conspiracist, and we include here both the truth tellers among the population, but also political regimes, scientists and politicians who use conspiracy as a mobilizing tactic. We view the vitality of conspiratorial practice as more than just a psychological safety valve, or a refuge for the marginal or the alienated. Conspiracism is a vehicle for both the powerless and the powerful. The panel seeks contributions examining conspiratorial hyperrationality, from political elites seeking support, social movements trying to speak truth to power, or fringe groups who 'trust no one' and are trying to 'connect the dots'.