For well over a century, Russia has been both the source and object of conspiracy theories, whether it is said to be under siege by hostile forces or working to undermine the purity or liberty of another nation. In the 30 years since the end of the USSR, conspiracy theories have left their customary habitat of cranks and crackpots to become a central feature of Russia’s political and media culture. This talk explores their appeal and their function in an uncertain world.
Eliot Borenstein is Professor of Russian & Slavic Studies and Senior Academic Convenor for the Global Network at New York University. He is the author of Men without Women: Masculinity and Revolution in Russian Fiction, 1917-1929 (winner of the 2001 AATSEEL book prize), Overkill: Sex and Violence in Contemporary Russian Popular Culture (winner of the 2008 AWSS book prize), Plots against Russia: Conspiracy and Fantasy after Socialism (winner of the 2020 Wayne S. Vucinich brook prize and the 2020 AATSEEL book prize), and Pussy Riot: Speaking Punk to Power (2020). His current projects include three recently-submitted book manuscripts: Soviet-Self-Hatred: The Secret Identities of Postsocialism, Marvel Comics in the 1970s: The World Inside Your Head (initially serialized in draft form through Cornell University Press and as a blog), and Meanwhile, in Russia…: Russian Internet Memes and Viral Video (under contract with Bloomsbury Press). He has begun work on HBO’s The Leftovers: Mourning and Melancholy on Premium Cable and Unstuck in Time: On the Post-Soviet Uncanny.