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Re-inventing National History through Conspiracy Theories

  • 04/6/24
  • 18:00-19:30
  • online talk

Re-inventing national history through conspiracy theories: the case of the Greek neomythological narratives

A Folklore Society online talk,

by Dr Afrodite-Lidia Nounanaki (University of the Aegean)

Tuesday 4 June 2024, 18:00 BST

In popular culture, history seems to be perceived as a fluid concept that can be recast to prove expectations or redress ‘injustices’. The conspiratorial reasoning framework leverages and is leveraged by this way of thinking. Thus, through such theories, the ‘true’ history of the Greek people is restated, along with their great contribution to the history of humanity, which was hushed up by forces that wish to control them. This is how neomythological narratives emerge that make use of the rich history and mythology of this people. However, this way of thinking is strongly exploited by far-right political forces who, through these narratives, consolidate their racist discourse.

On the Greek internet many webpages and social media groups about conspiracy theories of various kinds are to be found. Among these narratives are several conducting a version of ‘sacred narratives’ explaining how mankind took its known form, but mainly explaining the importance and superiority of the Greeks, as well as their significant role in the history of mankind.

Such conceptual structures are apt to contain elements from more than one religious tradition, together with ideas from the New Age, occultism, science and radical politics. Thus, they create a new reasoning for the Greek nation, a new narrative that ‘proves’ its importance and superiority. That is, these stories, that are being combined with each other in several ways, tend to explain the world in a new way that is different to the prevailing one, revealing a hidden truth that was intentionally concealed. Religious symbols and archaeological findings are brought together for this purpose or are (mis) reinterpreted and combined or explained by new narratives from science fiction. This truth is being kept concealed especially from the Greeks, who, by being ignorant of their origins, do not take their rightful place in the world and remain subject to forces that control and oppress them.

These narratives are circulating on online environments and are popular among people, who accept them as facts, so they seem to become something like a new kind of mythical concept. Of course, these narratives are being adopted by nationalistic groups as well, who find them fitting their cause.

So what do UFO believers, Christian millennialists, and right-wing conspiracy theorists have in common? It seems that they share common narrative themes. The conspiracy theory believers are increasingly elaborating stories of hidden plots that become linked in strange and unpredictable ways with other notions such as a belief in extra-terrestrial beings having created humanity, gods and nations.

This presentation aims to show the ways this narrative cluster of stories, myths and theories is structured, how it gets employed by nationalistic ideologies and how it is perceived by internet users. In short, how this web of legendary narratives has spread among subcultures on the Internet, how this new style of conspiracy thinking has arisen, and how this phenomenon relates to larger changes in Greek culture.

Afrodite-Lidia Nounanaki holds a PhD in Folklore Studies from the Pedagogical Department of Primary Education, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She has participated in various Greek and international conferences and publications. Her research interests revolve mainly around digital folklore and the diffusion of modern popular narratives through the internet and in the digital world. She is researching on digital humour (e.g., memes), but mostly on issues of the occult (contemporary legends, conspiracy theories, ghost lore, creepypasta) and their diffusion through the internet. At the time she is conducting post-doctoral research at the University of the Aegean on “The function of myth in the conspiratorial mindset”.

Tickets £6.00 (£4.00 for Folklore Society members with the Promo Code: log in to the Members Only area to get the Promo Code) from https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/re-inventing-national-history-through-conspiracy-theories-tickets-812557731047?

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Image: Temple of Hephaestus, Athens; photo A. Nounanaki