Accepted paper:

"The truth lies out there": Conspiracy theory as a cognitive project.


Theodoros Rakopoulos (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

Conspiracy theory should be analysed as a cognitive project that explores "other" areas of knowledge that is often obscure and equally often speaks "truth" to power. It is a form of "truth" activism premised on a method of linking dots of disperse evidence, gravitating around distant centres.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the epistemology of "conspiracy theory", arguing that, as a theory, it requires attention to its own methods and forms of creating knowledge. The paper shows that conspiracy theory is premised on a method of linking-the-dots, where disperse events are sewn in in coherent narratives. I argue that "conspiracism" is not an ideology of rupture but a radical method of linking disperate dots of evidence. Thinking of it that way invites comparisons with our own epistemic thinking in anthropology. I thus also draw parallelisms between the very formation of anthropological and that of conspirational knowledge. The aim is to elucidate how they never conflict or converge but constitute separate realms, which might share a lot in common as cognitive projects that explore the alternative/the alter/the other/the unconventional. I suggest that conspirational thinking, like anthropology, gravitates around distant centers, arguing in different ways that "truth lies out there". This alloucentric phenomenon is important to acknowledge when assessing the alleged paranoia" of conspiracy theory. Like other forms of knowledge not raised to the recognition of academic scholarship, conspiracy theory, at least the way its pundits see it, is a form of truth-activism.

panel P121
Conspiracy theories and conspiracy practices: moving between rationalities