S. Malešević (2021). Imagined Communities and Imaginary Plots: Nationalisms, Conspiracies, and Pandemics in the Longue Durée. Nationalities papers.
The outbreaks of major pandemics have historically been associated with the proliferation of conspiracy theories. This article explores what role conspiratorial narratives have played in the development of different “imagined communities” in the premodern, modern, and contemporary worlds. I argue that premodern conspiratorial narratives were mostly focused on eschatological and theological images, aiming to blame and delegitimise the religious Other. In these imaginary plots, spread of disease was interpreted as an attack on one’s religious beliefs. The prevalence of religious conspiracies helped reinforce religiously based, yet temporary, “imagined communities.” With the rise of nation-states and the decline of empires and patrimonial kingdoms, the periodic outbursts of epidemics gradually attained more nationalist interpretations. Hence in the modern era, pandemics often triggered the growth of nationalist conspiracies. In these narratives the threatening Other was usually nationalised, and even traditional religious groups became reinterpreted as a threat to one’s national security. In recent times, new technologies and modes of communication have created space for the emergence of global conspiracy theories. The onset of Covid19 has been associated with the dramatic expansion of such conspiracies. Some scholars have interpreted this as a reliable sign that nation-states and nationalisms have lost their dominance. However, this article shows that many global conspiracies in fact reinforce nationalist ideas and practices and, in this process, foster the perpetuation of national imagined communities.
L. David (2020). We are at war: The Rise of Expert Knowledge. Irish Journal of Sociology
We are at war. We have heard that statement time after time from various political leaders across the globe. We are at war against a pandemic. As Sinisa Malešević rightly pointed out in the interview for the Croatian newspaper Faktograf (Brakus, 2020), by inducing a common ‘enemy’, this figurative speech is nothing but a tool to homogenise the nation, to manipulate its patriotic senses not only for the sake of establishing authority, but to promote certain political agendas. In many places, such as the United States, Britain, Hungary, Israel and Serbia, the war language has been repeatedly used to claim facts, impose war-like measures, cut off liberties, pose wide-spread surveillance on citizens, tap phones and execute arbitrary arrests and many other ‘strategic’ choices under the pretence of fighting the war against the coronavirus. Such rhetoric, not only being immoral, is no more than a political tool to force people to align with their governments and to give them permission to continue pushing their political agendas.