The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities presents
The Intellectual and Literary History Public Seminar Series



Conspiracy Theory: The Shadow History of Social Science

In recent times, “conspiracy theory” has become a buzzword. Its rise to prominence reflects a political climate charged with partisanship and unsettled by changes in media technology. The phenomenon itself is, however, much older. One crucial difference between the contemporary situation and earlier times lies in the former absence of the term: the conceptual means to flag down conspiracy theories only emerged in the twentieth century. But how exactly were liberal democracies sensitized to the presence of this phenomenon that so offends their notions of authoritative knowledge and flouts their rules of evidence-based argumentation? And what kinds of problems have arisen, now that “conspiracy theory” has advanced to the main conceptual “handle” with which we try to come to grips with this phenomenon? This lecture will demonstrate that much of the answer to these questions is tied up with the emergence of social science. From its earliest days, social science was haunted by the spectre of conspiracy theory. Numerous means were devised to banish it or at least to hold it at bay, and first and foremost among them was assigning it a name.

Andrew McKenzie-McHarg is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at the Australian Catholic University (ACU). He wrote his PhD at the University of Erfurt in Germany and subsequently was involved in the Conspiracy and Democracy Project at the University of Cambridge. His research extends from anti-Jesuit polemics in the early modern period to the emergence of the social sciences in more modern times.

4pm Thursday 5th March 2020
Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower
The University of Queensland, St Lucia

Please contact or 07 334 69492 for further details.
For parking information:

All welcome


Image: From Frontispiece, [Ludwig Adolf Christian von Grolman] Nachrichten von einem großen, aber unsichtbare Bunde gegen die christliche Religion und die monarchischen Staaten (1795)


Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower, UQ St Lucia