Conspiracy Accounts as Intergroup Theories: Challenging Dominant Understandings of Social Power and Political Legitimacy

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Abstract

Conspiracy accounting is often regarded as an atypical, pathological form of political reasoning, and little research has considered how ordinary social actors may refer to political conspiracies in the course of argument. In this article, we consider the spontaneous use of conspiracy narratives by politically engaged Greek citizens in interview discussions of the Macedonian crisis. Analysis revealed that conspiracy narratives were typically used to challenge dominant representations that attributed the Macedonian crisis to Greek xenophobic nationalism. Specifically, conspiracy accounts were used to dispute assumptions concerning Greece's majority status by representing the political opposition as a consortium rather than a single out-group, by recasting the threat posed to Greece as a matter of realistic rather than symbolic competition, and by extending the historical frame of reference to encompass past and prospective future threats to the Greek people and the Greek state. In conclusion, we note how the use of conspiratorial reasoning may be used to construct complex causal arguments concerning intergroup relations and to challenge dominant ideological assumptions about social hierarchy and political legitimacy. In this respect, conspiratorial reasoning might be regarded as a prototypical form of intergroup representation.

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