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Accepted Paper:

Making and unmaking sense. Conspiracy theories, non-elite populism and religious mobilization in Romania.  
Florin Poenaru (University of Bucharest)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper explores the relationship between conspiracy theories, populism from below and religious mobilization in contemporary Romania. The explosion of conspiracy theories express an apocalyptic angst caused by cyber-capitalism's polycrises and the feeling that the world ceased to make sense .

Paper Abstract:

This paper explores the relationship between conspiracy theories, populism from below and religious mobilization in Romania. I look at how conspiracy narratives align with non-elite populist rhetoric and how this discourse informs far right political practices and imaginaries. What glues this edifice together are subordinate factions of the Romanian Orthodox church emboldened by the popularity they gained after leading the opposition to pandemic restrictions. This loose coalition might resemble the interwar fascist movement. However, the resonance within its ranks of conspiracy theories offers the imprint of a movement specific to contemporary cyber-capitalism and its legitimacy crises. The text situates conspiracy theories within a broader interpretive spectrum, alongside topics such as rumors, gossips, urban legends, occult practices, and alternative metaphysics. Therefore, it rejects cognitivist approaches that reduce conspiracy theories solely to psychology and resists the 'folkloric' approaches that merely index them. Instead, my investigation looks at how people produce realities from below in their everyday lives, particularly in a context characterized by the climate crisis, the fear of atomic annihilation, financial and economic crises, wars and the decline of the previous international order. The explosion of conspiracy theories in this context is inseparable from an acute apocalyptic angst that feeds into radical religious hope amid loss of sense and meaning. Methodologically, I treat conspiracy theories as ethnographic objects and I investigate the everyday contexts in which they are formulated, debated and amplified thus shedding light on the mechanisms through which conspiracy theories influence public opinion, political (dis)engagement, and (dis)trust in institutions.

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