Brazil

The subproject on Brazil studies possible connections between conspiracy theories and populism in the run-up to the 2022 presidential elections. In doing so, the analysis delves into the history of conspiracy theories in the country and draws on the literature on Brazilian populism from the 20th century to this day. By tracing the history of these two key themes in the Brazilian context, we critically reflect on possible ways these may have intersected in the past and explore ways they may converge and resonate with Brazilian voters –across the political spectrum– in the present.

Setting the 2018 presidential elections against the background of previous articulations of conspiracy rhetoric and manifestations of populism, special attention is given to new forms and strategies of political communication in a ‘post-truth’ era. Some key questions that guide this research are: Is the incumbent government disrupting or eroding from within the democratic processes in the country, as many analysts have suggested, and, if so, how? In what ways does Bolsonaro’s populist project evolve throughout his first term in office, and how do conspiracy theories shift in relation to such changes? Does Brazil’s authoritarian history, and Jair Bolsonaro’s own military identity, shape the latter’s populist rhetoric and political project? How do ideological approaches to the establishment of what is, and has been, ‘true’ and ‘false’ inform the government’s actions in relation to a national project?

Importantly, we also aim to analyze Jair Bolsonaro’s bid for re-election in 2022. By conducting long-term ethnographic field research with former and potential Bolsonaro supporters, we will endeavor to untangle the often convolutive electoral context and comprehend how conspiracist and populist rhetoric may influence voters’ preferences for a presidential candidate. This study brings together anthropological theory with insights from political science, media studies, sociology, and history.