Conspiracy theory, politics, and representation (One day conference and edited collection)

deadline for submissions: 
February 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Andrew Fergus Wilson - University of Derby (UK)
contact email: 

One day conference and edited collectionConspiracy theory, politics and representation

University of Derby and QUAD Arts Centre, Derby, UK. 3rd July 2019

This call is an invitation to a one day conference, out of which it is proposed to prepare an edited collection of papers arising from it, on the theme of conspiracy theory, politics and representation. Here, politics can be interpreted in its widest sense and proposals concerned with conspiracy theory’s role in metapolitics as a strategy of cultural penetration will be particularly welcome. The conference will be a public event and whilst aimed at sharing the very best in current scholarship, tickets will be priced in a way that encourages wider audiences, especially FE and UG HE students, to attend. There will be a full day’s programme of papers, discussion, and an evening film screening.

Conformed speakers include Professor Peter Knight (University of Manchester) who will present a paper titled, “Everything Is Connected: The Visual Culture of Conspiracy Theory”.

What was once the study of marginal and stigmatized beliefs has become a headlong rush to keep up with the mainstreaming of conspiracy theory. Whilst there is much to be said for the belief that engaging in conspiracy theory can help to develop a healthy scepticism toward hegemonic accounts of socio-political reality, the world of conspiracy theory has moved on a great deal from Fenster’s account of ‘great scholars and regular kids with laptops’ in the 9/11 Truther movement. Whilst they still represent a section of conspiracy theorists they have been obscured by Birthers, Pizzagate activists, and, increasingly, a politicised far right. At the same time conspiracy theory has shed the stereotypical image of being the purview of ‘tin foil hat wearers’ and has begun to garner acceptability among sections of the public. As ‘alternate facts’ and ‘fake news’ further undermine faith in the possibility of accurate representations of a shared social reality, the stigma associated with what had, for the most part, been seen as crank ideas has diminished. This conference and associated edited collection seeks to capture this moment of extended reach and acceptance of conspiracy theories.

The following themes indicate potential topics for abstracts but variations, combinations, and additions are welcome:

  • The survival and resurgence of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories
  • Conspiracy theories and ‘the new populism’
  • Demographic variations in conspiracy adherence
  • The pleasures of conspiracy theory
  • Radical religion and conspiracy theory
  • Political extremism and conspiracy theories
  • Social media and the normalisation of conspiracy theory
  • The scope for rational critical enquiry at a time of generalised scepticism

Abstracts of no more than 300 words, a working title, and a short proposer biography are invited for submission no later than February 15th, 2019. Accommodation expenses for accepted speakers will be provided, as will travel costs within the UK. Papers accepted for the conference will be included in the edited collection proposal although speakers are welcome to submit proposals intended for the conference or the collection. If you wish for your abstract to be considered solely for the conference or edited collection then please indicate this in your submission. Submissions for the edited collection will be required by August 30th, 2019.

Please send your abstracts to: Andrew Fergus Wilson, School of Law, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Derby in Word or PDF format

Conference Host: QUAD

At the time of the conference QUAD is exhibiting Megan Broadmeadow’s installation ‘SEEK PRAY ADVANCE’ which explores the beliefs of The Aetherius Society. QUAD is an international centre for engagement in contemporary art and film, based in Derby, in the heart of the UK, with annual footfall of over 300,000. The year-round programme focuses on major exhibitions, professional practice for artists, mass participation, commissions, independent film and the creative use of emergent digital technologies. QUAD is a charity focused on intercultural dialogue through supporting diverse audiences to engage, develop skills and contribute to contemporary culture. Major projects include FORMAT International Photography Biennale and the UK’s largest international portfolio review, as well as recent exhibitions – including many new commissions by Susan MacWilliam, Benedict Drew, teamLab, Rebecca Allen – and Doug Fishbone’s 9-hole crazy golf course at the 2015 Venice Biennale. QUAD is also home to the Derby Film Festival. QUAD’s founding patron was the late Sir John Hurt