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Conspiracy Theories in Southeast Asia

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posted on 2023-08-30, 16:13 authored by Viren Swami, Hanoor S. Zahari, David Barron
As in many other parts of the world, conspiracy theories are rife in Southeast Asia. Examples include the claim that foreign agents were responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings, that Jews are obstructing Southeast Asian economic progress and development, and a myriad of conspiracist claims about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Yet, scholarly research on the roots, functions, and consequences of conspiracy theories in Southeast Asia remains piecemeal and in its infancy. To consolidate available knowledge, this chapter introduces a number of Southeast Asian conspiracy theories that have been subjected to empirical research and analysis, including narratives that traverse nation-state boundaries (e.g., anti-Western conspiracy theories) and narratives that are relatively localised (e.g., that Indonesian authorities are ethnically cleansing the indigenous Papuan population). Our broad aim in this chapter is to counter the reductionist view that the pervasiveness of conspiracy theories in Southeast Asia can be traced back to the supposed psychopathology of the region’s populace or failed modernisation in these nation-states. Rather, in each of the cases examined, we attempt to provide an analysis of the sources and structures of conspiracy theories as they are shaped by the social and political dynamics of Southeast Asia. The salience of conspiracy theories in Southeast Asia should be seen, in our view, as stemming from a complex confluence of socio-political structures and as functionally serving to map trajectories of power, social change, and economic asymmetries.



  • Yes

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Place of publication

London, UK

Title of book

Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories




Peter Knight, Michael Butter

File version

  • Accepted version


  • eng

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ARCHIVED Faculty of Science & Technology (until September 2018)

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