It’s tempting to think that we live in an unprecedentedly fertile age for conspiracy theories, with seemingly each churn of the news cycle bringing fresh manifestations of large-scale paranoia. But the sad fact is that these narratives of suspicion—and the delusional psychologies that fuel them—have been a constant presence in American life for nearly as long as there’s been an America.
In this sweeping book, Thomas Milan Konda traces the country’s obsession with conspiratorial thought from the early days of the republic to our own anxious moment. Conspiracies of Conspiracies details centuries of sinister speculations—from antisemitism and anti-Catholicism to UFOs and reptilian humanoids—and their often incendiary outcomes. Rather than simply rehashing the surface eccentricities of such theories, Konda draws from his unprecedented assemblage of conspiratorial writing to crack open the mindsets that lead people toward these self-sealing worlds of denial. What is distinctively American about these theories, he argues, is not simply our country’s homegrown obsession with them but their ongoing prevalence and virulence. Konda proves that conspiracy theories are no harmless sideshow. They are instead the dark and secret heart of American political history—one that is poisoning the bloodstream of an increasingly sick body politic.
UFOs and aliens, unexplained mysteries, religious cults, diffusion, creationism. We are all familiar with beliefs about human life that lie outside traditional scientific boundaries. Notions such as these are considered reasonable by vast numbers of us in the Western world, in our modern “technological” and “educated” cultures.
Understanding why this should be so and how we as a society might deal with these widespread pseudoscientific beliefs are the subjects at the heart of this study. The authors—specialists in anthropology, archaeology, sociology, psychology, and history—explore creationism, which claims that there is evidence to support a literal interpretation of the origins of the world and of humanity as narrated in the Book of Genesis, and cult archaeology, which encompasses a wide range of fantastic beliefs about our past.
Cult Archaeology and Creationism contains several essays on the history of pseudoscientific beliefs and their current manifestations as well as the results of a unique research project in which students at five campuses across the country were asked about their beliefs and about such background factors as their school experience and religious faith. This expanded edition also includes two new essays, one on Afrocentrism and another that views cult archaeology and creationism in the 1990s and beyond.
When Hegel described the Americas as an inferior continent, he was repeating a contention that inspired one of the most passionate debates of modern times. Originally formulated by the eminent natural scientist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon and expanded by the Prussian encyclopedist Cornelius de Pauw, this provocative thesis drew heated responses from politicians, philosophers, publicists, and patriots on both sides of the Atlantic. The ensuing polemic reached its apex in the latter decades of the eighteenth century and is far from extinct today.
Translated in 1973, The Dispute of the New World is the definitive study of this debate. Antonello Gerbi scrutinizes each contribution to the debate, unravels the complex arguments, and reveals their inner motivations. As the story of the polemic unfolds, moving through many disciplines that include biology, economics, anthropology, theology, geophysics, and poetry, it becomes clear that the subject at issue is nothing less than the totality of the Old World versus the New, and how each viewed the other at a vital turning point in history.
This book seeks to debunk eleven popular and prevalent myths about Caribbean history. Using archaeological evidence, it corrects many previous misconceptions promulgated by history books and oral tradition as they specifically relate to the pre-Colonial and European-contact periods. It informs popular audiences, as well as scholars, about the current state of archaeological/historical research in the Caribbean Basin and asserts the value of that research in fostering a better understanding of the region’s past.
Contrary to popular belief, the history of the Caribbean did not begin with the arrival of Europeans in 1492. It actually started 7,000 years ago with the infusion of Archaic groups from South America and the successive migrations of other peoples from Central America for about 2,000 years thereafter. In addition to discussing this rich cultural diversity of the Antillean past, Myths and Realities of Caribbean History debates the misuse of terms such as “Arawak” and “Ciboneys,” and the validity of Carib cannibalism allegations.
By turns outlandish, humorous, and scatological, the Historia Augusta is an eccentric compilation of biographies of the Roman emperors and usurpers of the second and third centuries. Historians of late antiquity have struggled to explain the fictional date and authorship of the work and its bizarre content (did the Emperor Carinus really swim in pools of floating apples and melons? did the usurper Proculus really deflower a hundred virgins in fifteen days?). David Rohrbacher offers, instead, a literary analysis of the work, focusing on its many playful allusions. Marshaling an array of interdisciplinary research and original analysis, he contends that the Historia Augusta originated in a circle of scholarly readers with an interest in biography, and that its allusions and parodies were meant as puzzles and jokes for a knowing and appreciative audience.
Fake history is not a harmless mistake of fact or interpretation. It is a mistake that conceals prejudice; a mistake that discriminates against certain kinds of people; a mistake held despite a preponderance of evidence; a mistake that harms us. Fake history is like the Zombies we see in mass media, for the fake fact, like the fictional Zombie, lives by turning real events and people into monstrous perversions of fact and interpretation. Its pervasiveness reveals that prejudice remains its chief appeal to those who believe it. Its effect is insidious, because we cannot or will not destroy those mischievous lies. Zombie history is almost impossible to kill. Some Zombie history was and is political, a genre of what Hannah Arendt called “organizational lying” about the past. Its makers designed the Zombie to create a basis in the false past for particular discriminatory policies. Other history Zombies are cultural. They encapsulate and empower prejudice and stereotyping. Still other popular history Zombies do not look disfigured, but like Zombies walk among us without our realizing how devastating their impact can be. Zombie History argues that, whatever their purpose, whatever the venue in which they appear, history Zombies undermine the very foundations of disinterested study of the past.