1st Edition

What To Do About Conspiracy Theories? Academic Entanglements in Conflicts Over Truths

Edited By Elżbieta Drążkiewicz, Jaron Harambam Copyright 2024
    132 Pages
    by Routledge

    Increasingly social activists, journalists and policy makers have expressed concern over the proliferation of conspiracy theories in the public space. There is a growing fear of their impact on social cohesion and democracy, their power to erode trust in state institutions and science. These concerns often come with an expectation that it is the responsibility of academics to engage with conspiracy beliefs by countering them. But should they?

    In this book, contributors show that like everything that relates to conspiracy theories, even the answer to this question is not straightforward and can vary across disciplines and schools, can be influenced by disciplinary ethical codes of conduct, research methodologies, and specific approaches to conspiracy theories. Foregrounding a variety of approaches, from across disciplines (psychology, anthropology, sociology and media studies), academic seniority (from young scholars to full professors), and countries (USA, Ireland, UK, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Greece), the chapters in this book are in deep conversation with each other, offering multiple alternative takes on the issue of what should academics do with conspiracy theories. Together, the book embodies several bold and compelling provocations to dealing differently with conspiracy theories.

    This timely volume introduces perspectives of scholars representing media studies, anthropology, psychology and sociology and discusses case studies concerning politics, health, environment and security. It will be a key resource for researchers, scholars and practitioners engaged in these fields and will also appeal to anyone interested in conspiracy theories and other related phenomena such as disinformation or fake news. This book was originally published as a special issue of the Journal for Cultural Research

    The Open Access version of this book, available at www.taylorfrancis.com, has been made available under a Creative Commons [Attribution- Non Commercial- No Derivatives (CC- BY- NC- ND)] 4.0 International license. A version of the open access title is also available on the OAPEN platformhttps://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/88254.

    Introduction: What should academics do about conspiracy theories? Moving beyond debunking to better deal with conspiratorial movements, misinformation and post-truth
    Elżbieta Drążkiewicz and Jaron Harambam


    1. Conspiracist cognition: chaos, convenience, and cause for concern
    Stephan Lewandowsky


    2. Evaluating conspiracy claims as public sphere communication
    Eileen Culloty


    3. Conspiracy theories in political-economic context: lessons from parents with vaccine and other pharmaceutical concerns
    Elisa J. Sobo


    4. Taking vaccine regret and hesitancy seriously. The role of truth, conspiracy theories, gender relations and trust in the HPV immunisation programmes in Ireland
    Elżbieta Drążkiewicz


    5. Towards an ecological ethics of academic responsibility: debunking power structures through relationality in Greek environmentalism
    Elvira Wepfer


    6. Against modernist illusions: why we need more democratic and constructivist alternatives to debunking conspiracy theories
    Jaron Harambam


    Elżbieta Drążkiewicz is an anthropologist leading the ERC project CONSPIRATIONS investigating conflicts over conspiracy theories in Europe. She specializes in organisational, political, and economic anthropology. Her research also includes studies of foreign aid and development management and public health governance. She is an author of Institutionalised Dreams: The Art of Managing Foreign Aid (2020).

    Jaron Harambam is Assistant Professor of Media, Truth Politics and Digitalization at the Sociology Department of the University of Amsterdam. His research deals with public disputes over truth in a digitalized public sphere. More specifically, he studies conspiracy theories, news and platform politics, and AI (content moderation, search/recommender systems). Central to his research is the participation of multiple stakeholders to design our (future) digital worlds along democratic and public values. He is the author of Contemporary Conspiracy Culture: Truth and Knowledge in an Era of Epistemic Instability (2020). He is editor-in-chief of the open-access Dutch-Belgian peer-reviewed journal Tijdschrift Sociologie, and member of the European network of scholars working on conspiracy theories, COST COMPACT.