Whether linked to the “failures” of polling in recent elections, the inability of economists to predict the crash of 2008, or the increasingly cavalier relationship towards “facts” evidenced by the Trump administration, there is an emerging concern that we have undergone a transformation in the role of “truth” and knowledge in contemporary politics and society. Although there is little agreement on how to define this phenomenon, or whether it is indeed an objective shift, the debate thus far has centered on several main questions. These are, first, is there something objectively different about the relation of “truth” to politics in the current era (in other words, are we now in a new “post truth” era)? And if so, what are the causes of this change? In this talk, I will review current approaches to the problem of “truth,” and the ways in which questions about “truth” have shaped my past and current research, and will then reflect on what a research agenda focused on the shifting meaning of “truth” might look like. I will suggest that, rather than asking whether we are in fact in an age of “post truth” and “fake news,”, or asking what the causes of this state of affairs might be, that we might instead ask what (the discourses) of post-truth and fake news do: how do they operate, and what effects do they have? Who mobilizes them, and for what purposes, and what knowledge practices are associated with each of these positions?
About the speaker
Lisa Stampnitzky is Lecturer in Politics at the University of Sheffield. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and was a research fellow at INSIS from 2010-2011. Her first book, Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented Terrorism, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2013, while her current research, funded by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, analyses the new “speakability” of torture in the post-2001 war on terror.