Institute of Historical and Cultural Anthropology

Olivia Anna Rachwol: Preliminary Project Title: Contemporary conspiracist constructions in Poland between past and future

First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Monique Scheer
Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Michael Butter

This subproject aims to dive into the realm of Polish conspiracy theories from a cultural-anthropological perspective, focusing but not limiting itself to populist parties and movements on the right of the political spectrum in Poland. Although indications of conspiracy theories and populism have been found in both right and left-wing politics in Poland, some of their manifestations seem to be more present and meaningful than others. What is more, the most popular conspiracy theories in Poland are deeply intertwined with aspects of Polish collective memory.

In this context, the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party is a particularly interesting example to explore. In the last years, PiS has been receiving increasing attention for being vocal about presumed conspiracies and enemies from both in and outside of the party. The trajectory of the most mediatized theories – for instance the traumatic Smolensk airplane crash in 2010 or the Round Table talks in 1989 – reflects a circular concept of Polish history, and their popularity cannot be reduced to the realms of the current government. In fact, the political directives of Law and Justice – often based on the aim to save Poland from its enemies – reflect the opinion and attitudes of a considerable amount of the Polish population.

Basing its research on ethnographic methods, the project seeks to explore the meaning of conspiracist tropes for this party’s representatives, members and voters and ideally, put it into perspective with other, politically similar parties such as Kukiz’15 or even Konfederacja which has also shown to be supportive of conspiracist tropes and populist rhetoric. Specific attention shall be paid to Poland’s history and collective memory, which has been saturated with negative experiences and which continues to fuel belief in conspiracies today. 

Curriculum Vitae: Born 1993 in Berlin. Holds a master’s degree in European Studies from Lund University, and bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Economics, American Studies and Law from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Finished her master’s with a thesis about conspiracy theories in Polish daily newspapers. Between 2018 and 2019, she was a tutor in American history at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.