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The politics of paranoia: paranoid positioning and conspiratorial narratives in the surveillance society

[journal article]

Harper, David

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Abstract The notion of paranoia is often implicitly reproduced in the work of surveillance researchers. However, in this article I will argue that this notion needs to be interrogated since current conceptions of paranoia are inherently dualistic: viewing paranoia solely at an individual or intra-psychic level; or, alternatively solely at a societal level. Inevitably, either perspective is limited. Here I will attempt to break down this dichotomy by, firstly, drawing on the notion of discursive positioning to: analyse the cultural discourses which "produce" paranoia; examine how subjects (i.e. individuals, communities, societies etc.) become positioned by others as paranoid; and explore the effects of such positioning. Secondly, I will investigate the discursive positions through which people may position themselves as paranoid and describe some of the effects of such positioning. I conclude by drawing out some implications of a more nuanced view of paranoia for the field of surveillance studies.
Classification Social Psychology
Free Keywords Paranoia; surveillance; surveillance studies; conspiracy theory; paranoia culture
Publication Year 2008
Page/Pages p. 1-32
Journal Surveillance & Society, 5 (2008) 1
Status Published Version; reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution