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Accepted Paper:

The conspiracy narrative. Conspiracy theories as ordinary tools of critique in Sofia, Bulgaria  
Nikola Venkov (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)

Paper Short Abstract:

Conspiracy theories are an ordinary rather than startling epistemic device. They are employed by everyone in a local urban conflict, irrespective of power and status. Analysis of a rich tapestry of conspiracy narratives hints at the epistemic-social functions which conspiratorial thinking performs.

Paper Abstract:

I am interested in the minimal form of conspiracy theory, which I call “conspiracy narrative”. In a three-year long ethnographic work on a conflict over urban space in post-socialist Sofia, Bulgaria, I documented how all involved parties narrated what was going on (or not) through conspiracy theories. Although stakeholders came from across a spectrum of class and power positions – from marginalised minority groups to professionals and the city administration – they all readily employed conspiracy narratives about each other’s actions. In contrast to most theory in conspiracy theory studies I find that neither “conspiracy theorists” nor their inventions are necessarily marginal and excluded.

The conspiracy narrative perspective lets me decouple my analysis from the usual focus on fringe populations, extreme examples (aliens, the Illuminati, etc.), and recently, tropes about the power of transnational propaganda (Russian, COVID-19…). Little attention has been paid to conspiracy theory as ordinary rather than startling epistemic device. Taking advantage of the rich tapestry of narratives collected (mapped, in addition, to varied social contexts in Sofia), I am able to analyse and draw general conclusions about the epistemic-social functions which conspiratorial thinking performs. It is found to be the cheapest machinery for discursive action: the most accessible tool for critique of the social order. The conspiracy narrative concept further opens the way for developing a discursive mechanics of the interactions between conspiratorial tropes as well as of their cross-linking with non-conspiratorial discourse.

Panel P003
Navigating conspiracies “from below”: agentive strategies and tactics by marginalized groups
  Session 1 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -