Conspiracy Theories, Violence, and Politics in 20th-Century Colombia, Guyana, and Mexico
Conference on Latin American History 20
The papers foreground the politics of knowledge production and explore themes of violence, secrecy, and political and popular cultures. Vanessa Freije analyzes 1974 rumors about forced sterilization in Mexico City schools. She uses this case to explore the politics of secrecy and concealment in Mexican public life and examines the conspiracy theory as a popular response to international population control measures. In his paper, Vikram Taboli explores rumors around the assassination of radical Marxist historian and activist, Walter Rodney, in Guyana. He pinpoints this moment as critical to Guyanese debates about the ethics of violence and societal order. The case highlights the ways in which the postcolonial has been ordered by sensations of arbitrary and intimate violence. Tom Williford’s paper examines the 1948 assassination of Colombia liberal party leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. He explores not only the discourses produced by the rumors but also the on-the-ground responses that conspiracy theories generated. Williford explores how the ensuing conspiracy theories blamed conservatives, anti-gaintanista liberals, and the CIA and undergirded violence for the following years.
As important as rumor and conspiracy theories have been to Latin American politics, they have remained underexplored within the historiography. This panel interrogates the historical methodologies for examining conspiracy theories, while demonstrating rumor’s important role in knowledge production in twentieth-century Latin America and the Caribbean. Finally, the panel speaks to broader conceptual debates by considering the extent to which the cases from Colombia, Mexico, and Guyana shed light on the relationship between conspiracy theories and politics in other countries, including the United States.