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Mathijs Pelkmans and Rhys Machold

This article aims to reinvigorate analytical debates on conspiracy theories. It argues that definitional attempts to set conspiracy theories apart from other theories are flawed. Blinded by the “irrational” reputation of conspiracy theories and deluded by the workings of institutionalized power such approaches fail to recognize that there are no inherent differences between the two categories. We argue that assessments of conspiracy theories should focus not on the epistemological qualities of these theories but on their interactions with the socio-political fields through which they travel. Because “conspiracy theory” is not a neutral term but a powerful label, attention to processes of labeling highlights these larger fields of power, while the theories’ trajectories illuminate the mechanisms by which truth and untruth are created. As such, this article offers a way forward for assessing both the truth and use value of conspiracy theories in the contemporary world.

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Abhishek Choudhary, Rhys Machold, Ricardo Cardoso, Andreas Hackl, Martha Lagace and Carly Machado

How Rivalries End by Karen Rasler, William R. Thompson, and Sumit Ganguly. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013. 280 pp. 4 illus. Hardback. ISBN 978-0-8122-4498-4.

The Privatization of Israeli Security by Shir Hever. London: Pluto Press, 2018. 256 pp. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0-7453-3720-3.

Working the System: A Political Ethnography of the New Angola by Jon Schubert. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2017. 270 pp. 5 illus. Hardcover. ISBN 978-1-5017-1369-9.

Overlooking the Border: Narratives of Divided Jerusalem by Dana Hercbergs. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2018. 284 pp. 46 illus. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0-8143-4108-7.

Out of War: Violence, Trauma, and the Political Imagination in Sierra Leone by Mariane C. Ferme. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018. 336 pp. Paperback. ISBN 978-0-52029-438-7.

Sporadically Radical: Ethnographies of Organised Violence and Militant Mobilization Edited by Steffen Jensen and Henrik E. Vigh. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press. 290 pp. Paperback. ISBN 978-8-76354-602-7.