Area 51, Ancient Aliens, endemic child abuse at the BBC, and Reptilians,... This interview begins with David's own journey to this research field, before considering some basic questions such as "what is a conspiracy theory?"

About this episode

Area 51, Ancient Aliens, endemic child abuse at the BBC, Reptilians, Watergate, 9/11, renegade preachers rising from the dead, the grassy knoll, The Da Vinci Code, Hydra, climate change, the moon landings, Satanic Ritual Abuse, The X Files… the popular imagination is rife with stories of secret plans and cover-ups, agencies working behind the scenes, grand plans carried without the knowledge of the unsuspecting masses, lies, deceit, and an elect few who know ‘the truth’. Sometimes, stories which at one time seemed far-fetched receive widespread acceptance and become the hegemonically accepted norm. At others, they remain the preserve of relatively small groups of “nutters”, and become designated as “conspiracy theories” by those who have the power to do so. What might this popular discursive trope be able to tell us about contemporary Western society? How might scholars go about studying it, particularly when they themselves are frequently implicated as working against the truth by “insiders”? And what might all of this have to do with the contemporary academic study of religion? 9781474253222To discuss this tantalizing subject, we are joined today by a scholar who will be no stranger to regular listeners of the Religious Studies Project, Dr David Robertson. The interview begins with David’s own journey to this research field, before considering some basic questions such as “what is a conspiracy theory?” David then lays out the historical context of the parallel development of contemporary millennial and conspiracist discourse, and his case studies – Whitley Streiber, David Icke, David Wilcock, and their audiences. Discussion then turns to the meat of Robertson’s theoretical conclusions concerning epistemic capital, popular epistemic strategies, the UFO as a discursive object connecting two fields of discourse, power, and prophecy. The interview concludes with discussion of the relevance of this field of study to Religious Studies more broadly, and some challenging admonitions to for the discipline. Support the RSP by using our affiliate link to buy David Robertson’s new book!

This episode has not been transcribed yet. 

Consider a donation to pay for the cost of editing a transcript?

Related Resources

BASR 2019: The State of the Discipline

Podcast

Vivian Asimos and Theodora Wildcroft took the opportunity to ask the delegates of BASR 2019 what inspired them about the conference theme, their opinion about major trends in the discipline, and how they were personally feeling about REF 2021.
Special 2019: Only Sixty Seconds!

Podcast

For our eighth(!) annual special, Only Sixty Seconds returns! This time, Chris Cotter is your host, as David G. Robertson returns to defend his 2018 crown against Bettina Schmidt, Douglas Davies and Theo Wildcroft. We may not have avoided repetition, but I do not hesitate in promising you no deviation from hilarity!

Responses to this episode

Futures Found Wanting

Figured as discursive objects, both the witch and the UFO exceeded (or were thought to exceed) the epistemic capacities of contemporary knowledge, necessitating the creation of new forms of knowing.In her recent book on confession and witchcraft in early modern France, French Studies scholar Virginia Krause argues that early modern demonology was a ‘science of the night'.The activities of the Devil, and of the witches who served him, occurred in the darkest hours,...

Other EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

The Sacrality of the Secular and Philosophy of Religion

Podcast

In this week's podcast, we speak with Bradley Onishi about the ways in which philosophy of religion has thought "with" religion rather than for or against religion. "It's possible," he says, "to hold an enchanted secularity" if we think about religions themselves as tools for questioning our basic assumptions about the world.
Biblical Studies and Religious Studies

Podcast

What is the relationship between Religious Studies and the study of the Christian New Testament? Although RS is often considered to be "studies of thee other religions", Biblical Studies also offers a way into the broader theoretical and definitional issues in the study of religions. As Dale B. Martin explains to Jack Tsonis,...
Secular Jewish Millennials in Israel/Palestine

Podcast

In this podcast, Chris Cotter is joined by Dr Stacey Gutkowski to discuss what it means to be a ‘secular Jewish Israeli millennial’.
Muslim NGOs and civil society in Indonesia

Podcast

While the service provision activities of some religious NGOs complement and enhance systems of low state capacity, in others they compete with state services and in still others service delivery by religious NGOs is associated...
Straight White American Jesus, the podcast

Podcast

In this week's podcast, Skidmore College Professor Bradley Onishi speaks about Straight White American Jesus, a podcast he co-hosts with Dan Miller that blends insider religious experience with academic expertise about American Evangelicalism.
‘Religious’ and ‘Spiritual’ Struggles: Now in ‘Nonreligious’ and ‘Nonspiritual’ flavors!

Podcast

In this interview, Dr. Julie Exline discusses what led to her interest in Struggles and some of the background behind the development of the Religious and Spiritual Struggle Scale. She goes on to talk about why the scale includes struggles relevant to both religious believers and nonbelievers and how this work related to some of her current work on god images in both groups.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The views expressed in podcasts, features and responses are the views of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Religious Studies Project or our sponsors. The Religious Studies Project is produced by the Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO), a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (charity number SC047750).