Academic inquiry into conspiracy theories is unquestionably on the rise. Since the turn of the millennium, a new generation of scholars has released conspiracy theory from its earlier associations with individual pathologies, and has shifted attention to its wider social and cultural functioning. Notwithstanding these developments, existing research still tends to treat conspiracy theories in historical and cultural isolation, overlooking their reliance on earlier events and narrative templates, and neglecting their – increasingly digital – transnational dynamic. Focusing on conspiratorial stories and images in Central and East European literature, film, television, commemorative rituals and online culture, during the period 2010-2020, CONSPIRATORIALMEMORY aims to overcome these limitations. The project elucidates the historical references, the transnational interactions and the online circulations that give conspiracy theories their rhetorical and emotional momentum in the post-socialist era. Relying on a theoretical framework that enriches the emerging field of conspiracy theory studies with affect studies and cultural memory studies, the project zooms in on conspiracy-based cultural imaginations from Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus regarding three transnational events that have recently been at the center of international political tensions. Subprojects 1, 2 and 3 each focus on the conspiracy cultures around one of these events, employing the qualitative methodology of Cultural Analysis to examine the intersecting discourses of memory and suspicion. Subproject 4 uses quantitative digital media research methods to analyze the medium-specific contributions of online platforms to memory-based conspiratorial imaginations. The Project Synthesis compares the modes and media of expression in the examined cases, and addresses their parallels with cultural imaginations of conspiracy from Western Europe and the United States.
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