Alternative facts. Fake news. Conspiracy theories. The state no longer seems to possess the authority or the will to unify citizens in a sphere of socially agreed truth. This panel opens up new ethnographic perspectives on the shifting roles of states in this emergent "post-truth" world.
Alternative facts. Fake news. State secrets. Conspiracy theories. Climate-change denial. We seem to be living in a world where states no longer possess the authority or the will to unify citizens in a sphere of socially agreed truth. In this trend, there appears to be increasing convergence between late/post/(neo?) socialist societies and late/neo/(post?) liberal societies. Globally, this convergence comes in the wake of a great technological and commercial revolution—the age of information, automation, and artificial intelligence. This revolution has produced unprecedented global inequality even as it, perhaps, heralds the emergence of a true global proletariat. In recent years, anthropological approaches to this historical moment have included theorizing various shifts, for example, a shift toward the performative in politics (Yurchak and Boyer), a shift away from the political imagination of a better future (Ferguson), and a shift from biopower (the power over life and death) to geontopower (the power over what counts as life or non-life) (Povinelli). This panel opens up new ethnographic perspectives on these and other shifts in the "post-truth" world, including the siloing of the public sphere into separate social-media channels, the concomitant enclosure of public space into gated communities and private parks, the rise of big-data analytics, and the paradoxical emergence of extreme-right nationalist movements even as the state's authority breaks down. Ultimately, the panel strikes a hopeful note by exploring some of the (latent) liberatory potentials of these social shifts, noting that "where the danger lies, grows also the saving power" (Hölderlin).