Accepted Paper:

"Shock in the South": Body Theft and Conspiracy Consciousness in Cyprus  


Elizabeth Davis (Princeton University)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper examines "conspiracy consciousness" in Cyprus through a case study: the theft of the body of a former president from his grave in 2009. Examining theories and counter-theories of conspiracy surrounding this event in the press, I reconsider the meaning of "local context."

Paper long abstract:

This paper begins from the theft of the body of Tassos Papadopoulos, former president of the Republic of Cyprus, from his grave in December 2009. Stories of this event radiate in many directions from the figure of Papadopoulos, a paramilitary tactician and ethnonationalist politician regarded by many as paranoid; his presidency began with a vigorous campaign to defeat the Annan Plan for reunifying the island, which has been divided into Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot regions since the war in 1974. The theft of Papadopoulos's body one year after his death attracted intense public speculation, including widespread accusations against Turkish Cypriots and Turkish nationals later determined to be false when members of an organized crime family were convicted of the crime. This paper works through some of this speculation, tracing theories and counter-theories about the theft of the President's body published in the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot press in the months afterward to other "conspiracy theories" about the division of Cyprus that have circulated in oral and published forms for the last forty years. In thus crossing time, borders, languages, fields of discourse, and forms of expertise, this paper examines pathways and tactics of "conspiracy theory" in Cyprus in relation to Cypriots' knowing and critical consciousness of it. This meta-epistemological perspective entails a reconsideration of what anthropologists mean by "local context" when we contextualize conspiracy theory. Ultimately, I argue against any stable distinction between "conspiracy theory" and social theory on epistemological, ethical, or political grounds.

Panel P121
Conspiracy theories and conspiracy practices: moving between rationalities