ERIC WOLF LECTURE: OF PLOTS AND MEN. THE HEURISTICS OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES
Conspiracy theories have flourished across the world in the modern era. Not that they did not exist in earlier periods, but the notion that emancipation from religion and superstition promised by the Enlightenment would prevent them has definitely fizzled out.
Whether they derive from explicitly malignant intentions or find their origin in diffuse rumors, the remarkable fact is that such paranoid representations of the world are embraced by many from multiple cultural backgrounds and across all social classes. They therefore signal a dual crisis of veridiction, with a distrust towards the official truth, and of authority, with a distrust towards those in power. While there is a general condemnation of these alternative approaches to facts, a distinct perspective consists in considering them as revealing certain little-known dimensions of the functioning of the mind and of society. Based on several cases, the lecture will explore these dimensions arguing, against univocal theories, that various mechanisms and logics are at work.
Didier Fassin is Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and a Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. Anthropologist, sociologist and physician, he conducted extensive research in Senegal, South Africa, Ecuador, and France. He authored fifteen books translated in seven languages and edited more than twenty collective volumes.