In recent years, there has been growing concern about the spread of conspiracy theories and the potential harms they may cause in societies around the world. As events like the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2021 US Capitol riots have shown, conspiracy theories can contribute to polarisation, political violence, and the undermining of democratic institutions.

In this seminar, I will give an introduction to the growing body of academic research on conspiracy theory, looking at key trends and debates within the field, as well as some of the myths about conspiracy theories and the people who believe in them. I will argue that social scientists can contribute to research in this area by focusing more on the particular context and content of each conspiracy theory, rather than taking a universalising view that sees all conspiracy theories as essentially alike. Furthermore, I will argue that theoretical insights from historians and cultural theorists can help social scientists to produce stronger research on conspiracism. I will finish by showing how this approach would work, by examining the case of Covid-19 conspiracy theories.

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