The Religiosity of Conspiracy and Ideology
November 22, 2007 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of any books or articles that look at conspiracy theories from an anthropology of religion or psychology point of view?

I'm interested in looking at studies or analyses of the motivations and development of conspiracy theories. To me they seem to fill the same space in the modern world that religion once did (bringing order to a chaotic world, explaining the unknown, etc). This thread mentioned a couple of books that touch on what I'm trying to find but focused more on collections of various theories rather than analyzing them.

Also, in a similar vein, does anyone know of any material that takes the same kind of look at ideologies? For instance, it's often observed that Communism, especially as practiced in the USSR or China, has many religion-like elements. I'd like to find works that explore that theme.
posted by Sangermaine to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Prometheus Rising
posted by Mr_Crazyhorse at 8:09 PM on November 22, 2007

This Radio National programme may interest you. They are discussing Karl Popper.
posted by tellurian at 8:20 PM on November 22, 2007

Three of my favorites...

Why People Believe Weird Things

The Demon-Haunted World

Watch the Skies
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:30 PM on November 22, 2007

¤ Crank Dot Net resources page
¤ The Religious Movements Homepage Project @ University of Virginia
¤ Book: Evil Incarnate
¤ A Conspiracy of Really Smart and Really Evil Demons
posted by bonobo at 10:55 PM on November 22, 2007

Best answer: The anthropologists Kathleen Stewart and Susan Harding have done a lot of work on this topic. See:

Kathleen Stewart, Susan Harding, "Bad Endings: American Apocalypsis" Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 28, 1999 (1999), pp. 285-310.

Kathleen Stewart, Susan Harding, "Anxieties of Influence: Conspiracy Theory and Therapeutic Culture in Millennial America" in Transparency and Conspiracy: Ethnographies of Suspicion in the New World Order, ed. Harry G. West, Todd Sanders

See also Stewart's essay in the edited collection by postmodern anthropologist George MArcus, Paranoia within Reason: A Casebook on Conspiracy as Explanation.

You might also be interested in this article, by a religious studies scholar.

Finally, the classic study on conspiracy theories in American life is historian Richard Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style in American Politics.
posted by googly at 3:54 AM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding Why People Believe Weird Things.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:12 PM on November 24, 2007

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