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Special Issue: Digital Truth-making

Anthropological Perspectives on Right-wing Politics and Social Media in “Post-truth” Societies

Christoph Bareither, Alexander Harder, and Dennis Eckhardt

How do users of social media platforms produce, shape and share truths online? In this introduction, we outline our understanding of digital truth-making as a process that builds on the affordances of digital infrastructures to entangle information with social, cultural and emotional dynamics in a way that co-constitutes beliefs and convictions about the world. The contributions to the special issue illuminate how different variations of this process can be illuminated with the help of digital ethnography and additional empirical methods. In doing so, they exemplify how digital anthropology can contribute to ongoing debates about populism and right-wing politics in “post-truth” digital societies.

Open access

Digital Truth-making Among the New Chinese Online Fandom Nationalists

Between Online Popular Culture and Political Participation

Chenyang Song

In recent years, the rise of digital populist and/or nationalist movement and the post-truth phenomenon have affected the political landscapes of many countries, including China. This article focuses on how pop-cultural practices and practices of political participation intertwine in the digital truth-making process of Chinese online “fandom nationalists”. Using over one year of ethnographic mixed-methods data analysis following relevant hashtags and chat groups, I illustrate the truth-making practices of these online users and their clear preference for information with ideological affinities. I argue that the social media affordances allow Chinese online fandom nationalists to create various forms of strong synergies between pop-/fandom-cultural and political practices that provide an ideal ground for the propagation of certain political truths while simultaneously suppressing/hiding the truths of others.

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Spain and the Old Regime of Post-truth

Freedom of Speech, Ritualised Politics, and Postmemory on Social Media

Raquel Campos Valverde

The Spanish legal framework inherited from the Franco dictatorship (1939‒75) and its recent development foster political dynamics that ordain it as an old regime of post-truth, where denialism of fascist history is the official truth. Through digital ethnography I demonstrate that this kind of post-truth is further amplified through digital platforms, although there is also room for countercultural practices of antifascist truth-making in Spanish digital media. The lack of freedom of speech and the ritualisation of political discussion can hinder democratic truth-making practices, but postmemory forms of engagement with digital media also offset the impact of denialist post-truth. The conclusion questions whether the democratic liminality of the Spanish public sphere online and offline provide a breeding ground for post-truth.

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“Feminine, Not Feminist”

Trad Truth-making on Social Media

Alexandra Deem

This article investigates the truth-making practices of networks of antifeminist women on social media who identify as “traditional” or “trad” for short. Demonstrating how trad truth-making emerges in response both to the tensions inherent in right-wing nationalism and neoliberal postfeminism, it argues that the potential solution trad women pose depends on the ways they harness social media to limb public and private spaces and personal and political concerns. Paying particular attention to the entanglement of emotions and technical affordances, I use instances from my fieldwork in trad networks to frame their outreach as a form of truth management equally invested in carving out a space for their own (semi)public presence as in combatting the perceived dangers of feminism.

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Crafting Good Indicators

Human–Machine Entanglements in Brazil's 2022 Population Census

Moisés Kopper and Ulisses Corrêa Duarte

Abstract

Big data analytics have radically transformed data collection protocols in population censuses. Yet despite the unprecedented degree of automation these technologies afford, much of the critical work that goes into making data ‘actionable’ still hinges on the ethical labour of data operators in these novel human–machine settings. By following training activities and conducting interviews with technologists who worked on Brazil's 2022 population census, this article traces the workings of a fraud-detecting system designed to reduce costs and improve data quality and collection. Our ethnography identifies two competing modes of truth-making, which we term ‘probabilistic’ and ‘performative’, whereby numbers and census-takers ‘tame’ each other. Tracking human–machine data entanglements on the fringes of calculation centres helps unpack how futurities are affectively negotiated and woven into the political fabric of these political technologies.

Open access

Feeling the Truth

Emotions and Digital Truth-making within Right-wing Populist Networks on Twitter/X

Pia Schramm and Julia Molin

Based on an investigation of how everyday users participate in right-wing populist discourse on social media platforms, this article explores the emotional practices that shape and legitimise purported truths about the threat posed by Islam to the Western world. The article builds on the findings of an online ethnography of a right-wing community of users on Twitter. Drawing on a practice theory approach of emotions that considers the properties of social media platforms, we argue that right-wing populist claims to truth do not function in a linear way. The emotions mobilised in this context do not solely focus on rejection and exclusion. Rather, right-wing populist truth-making is a complex process in which emotional practices of inclusion and exclusion are interwoven.

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‘Are you paying for somebody else’s?’ The value of secrecy in the uses of DNA paternity tests in the USA

Mélanie Gourarier

Based on an ethnographic study carried out in 2015–16 in a New York DNA testing centre, this article focuses on the different costs (economic, emotional, symbolic and political) of a paternity test result. Whether a mother is trying to defend her son’s interests, or a man wants to check the genetic authenticity of his parentage, the material drawn on here reveals the issues at stake in situations understood as enigmas that can be solved. What is the value of these enigmas, at the heart of family histories? In other words, what uncertainties do people want to resolve by identifying a biological father? Rather than taking a reductive approach framing the relationship to secrets as relating to a deep‐seated or even imperative ‘need to know’, this article, instead, problematises the current preoccupation with ‘truth making’.

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Reality, Realism and the Future

Year 2021 in European Social Anthropology Journals

Anna Kruglova

forms of truth-making and society-making in data science, and with the continuing human ambiguity about producing ignorance, secrets and uncertainty. Finally, anthropologists discuss what constitutes being grounded in reality. Some suggest that

Open access

Managing Mass Graves in Rwanda and Burundi

Vernaculars of the Right to Truth

Astrid Jamar and Laura Major

remains and the political nature of truth-making render ‘the right to truth’ and forensic exhumation powerful political tools to consolidate further authoritarianism in these contexts. Our analysis provides important contributions to theory in fields of

Restricted access

Absential Locations and the Figureless Ground

Clare Mac Cumhaill

; however, I leave questions of truth making aside here. C. B. Martin, ‘How It Is: Entities, Absences and Voids’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74, no. 1 (2006): 57–65. For discussion, see also Boris Kukso, ‘The Reality of Absences’, Australasian