The first international conference of the ERC-funded project “Populism and Conspiracy Theory” (PACT) will take place on 10-12 March 2022. We are confident that restrictions caused by the pandemic will be over by then and that we will be able to meet in Tübingen, Germany. The conference will focus on “Conspiracy Theories and Leftwing Populism.” Keynote speakers will be Clare Birchall (King’s College London), Kirk Hawkins (Brigham Young University) and Oliver Marchart (University of Vienna).
The strong connection between populism and conspiracy theory has frequently been stressed in recent years. Many populist leaders employ conspiracist rhetoric and followers of populist parties and movements are often more susceptible to believe in conspiracy theories than others. However, the relationship between the two has not yet been comprehensively explored. The few studies (for example, by Paul Taggart or Mark Fenster) that attempt a general theorization of the connection consider conspiracy theories a secondary feature or a non-necessary element of populism. Conspiracy theories, they suggest, occur in many but not in all populist movements. Other scholars (for example, Ruth Wodak or Karin Priester) have argued that there is a special affinity between right-wing populism and conspiracy theory.
The significance of conspiracy theories for leftwing populism, however, remains especially understudied. Do conspiracy theories really occur less frequently in leftwing populist movements, and, if this is the case, why? Or is this a false impression caused by the focus on rightwing variants in the recent scholarship on populism? Does its Marxist heritage “immunize” leftwing populism against conspiracy theories? Or is leftwing populism at least in some variants a conspiracist deviation of nuanced social analysis in that it tends to blame people instead of structures? What is the content of conspiracy theories found in leftwing populism, what plots and groups of conspirators do they focus on? How and in what contexts are such conspiracy theories articulated by populist leaders? What are the parallels to and differences from conspiracy theories in rightwing populism? Does the tendency to conspiracy theorizing maybe cut across the left/right distinction?
The conference seeks to address these and related questions We are interested in theoretical considerations of the relationship between leftwing populism and conspiracy theory (or a lack thereof), as well as contemporary and historical case studies.
Please send your paper title, abstract (max. 200 words) and a short biographical note (max. 70 words) as one PDF file to firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 July 2021. Successful applicants will be notified by 31 July 2021.
PACT will cover the travel and accommodation costs of all speakers. There will be no registration fee.