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Accepted Paper:

Making sense of the world through conspiracy theories.  
Razvan Nicolescu (New Europe College)

Paper Short Abstract:

The paper explores the consumption of conspiracy theories in relation to their personal sense of the world among a group of 65+ year-olds in Bucharest, Romania.

Paper Abstract:

The paper reports the initial results of a long-term ethnography on the relation between what is commonly known as “fake news” and social trust in Bucharest, Romania. My research opened two main directions. First, most research participants tend to aggregate different conspiracy theories into a bigger conspiracy with a huge potential to explain the contradictions and inconsistencies in the world. For many, this bigger conspiracy has the quality to possibly reveal the “truth” that is strictly restricted in terms of access and governance.

Second, my initial findings suggest that older people, especially if they are retired, relatively less active, and have limited contact with their families and peers are much more inclined to follow and engage with conspiracy theories. A particular group is represented by 65+ year-olds who live by themselves. For this age group, conventional media, such as TV and radio, are important but the main access to conspiracy theories is via social media. They engage with various content, from “shorts” distributed via TikTok or Reels to ad-hoc Facebook live broadcasts. They rarely discuss such materials with families and peers. This observation is important in the context in which my previous research on social media in southeast Italy (Nicolescu 2016) showed a subtle relation between social trust, including in most controversial matters, and the breadth and intensity of social relations.

My paper explores why and how people engage with conspiracy theories in relation to their own sense of position in the larger society and possibilities to experience the world.

Panel P003
Navigating conspiracies “from below”: agentive strategies and tactics by marginalized groups
  Session 2 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -