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Mimesis and Conspiracy

Bureaucracy, New Media and the Infrastructural Forms of Doubt

Michael Vine and Matthew Carey

Abstract

Conspiratorial thought is one of the hallmarks of late modernity. This article focuses on the wealth of conspiracy theories that crystallized around chemtrails and the Californian drought to examine the genre more generally. It suggests that the particular constellation of certainty and doubt present in conspiracy arguments is a product of the fundamentally mimetic nature of conspiratorial thought, which espouses the contours of the infrastructural environment in which it emerges. In our case, this infrastructural environment is that of bureaucracy on the one hand and the architecture of the internet on the other. Each of these infrastructures helps to shape conspiratorial thought in a distinct manner, and the confluence of the two imparts to the genre its particular flavour.

Free access

Introduction

Infrastructures of Certainty and Doubt

Matthew Carey and Morten Axel Pedersen

Abstract

This special section explores the various ways in which states of certainty and doubt are generated and sustained, focusing on what we call the ‘infrastructures’ that undergird, enable or develop alongside them. The articles in this collection build on the growing literature on these topics, notably the very extensive recent work on doubt, uncertainty and opacity, and they extend it further by directing attention not to the consequences of these states or people’s responses to them, but instead to the various semiotic, material and social forms that make possible the assertion or recognition of certainty or doubt. We use the idea of ‘infrastructure’ as a heuristic device to explore these processes.

Open access

Pierre Déléage

Translator : Translated by Matthew Carey

Abstract

This article develops an epidemiological approach to the analysis of ritual discourse, comparing three distinct genres of Amazonian ritual chants: Wayana, Sharanahua, and Ingarikó. The aim is not to identify the inherent properties of chants, nor to establish ideal types of ritual context (initiation, shamanism, prophetism), but to analyze the different factors affecting the stabilization of the heterogeneous elements of ritual traditions. First, I identify the different procedures (order transfer, parallelism, intersemioticity, and inscription) that stabilize content. Then, assuming that the spread of ritual chants depends on an institutional apparatus, I explore the chants’ rules of distribution and the types of legitimizing authority involved. Finally, I show how the combined analysis of these different factors offers us a new way of understanding ritual innovation.

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Matthew Carey, Ida Nielsen Sølvhøj, Eve Monique Zucker, Younes Saramifar, and Louis Frankenthaler