Playing cards against the state: precarious lives, conspiracy theories, and the production of ‘irrational’ subjects

Journal article


Johnson-Schlee, S (2019). Playing cards against the state: precarious lives, conspiracy theories, and the production of ‘irrational’ subjects. Geoforum.
AuthorsJohnson-Schlee, S
Abstract

Abstract
This paper discusses the role of conspiracy theory in political speech amongst service users at a soup kitchen in Brixton, south London. Rather than categorizing conspiracy theories as ‘irrational’ it argues that this speech must be read in the context of precarity and an oppositional relationship with the state. In particular the paper argues that ‘behavior change theory’, which has become a key influence in British social policy, works on the basis that those at the margins of society are not fully capable of making the right decisions for themselves. Behaviour change theory, which has become influential around the world, excludes the most marginal aspects of society from political discourse by assuming they are ‘irrational’. In this way the very ontological security (Giddens 1991, Laing 2010, Philo 2014) of individuals on the margins of society is threatened by policies which aims to govern behavior and territorialize precarious lives. This paper will argue that conspiracy theories, where deployed by marginalized people, are strategies which attempt to act across multiple political scales. From the socially marginal space of the soup kitchen, conspiracy theories claim knowledge of larger scale political geographies. This paper demonstrates that an ethnographic method is instrumental in exploring this multi-scalar complexity.
Keywords: Conspiracy Theory, Precarity, Behaviour Change, Ethnography, Poverty, Welfare, Austerity

Year2019
JournalGeoforum
PublisherElsevier
ISSN0016-7185
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.02.013
Publication dates
Print21 Feb 2019
Publication process dates
Deposited16 Feb 2019
Accepted09 Feb 2019
Accepted author manuscript
License
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
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https://openresearch.lsbu.ac.uk/item/8678y

Accepted author manuscript

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