Thomas Hylland Eriksen is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo and a research affiliate at Christian Michelsens Institutt (CMI), Bergen. His research has focused on identity politics, globalisation and complex societies, with fieldwork in Mauritius, Trinidad and Norway. Recently, he has carried out research in Australia on the dilemmas of growth and sustainability. His textbooks in anthropology, including Ethnicity and Nationalism, Small Places, Large Issues and What is Anthropology?, have been widely translated. His latest books are Fredrik Barth: An Intellectual Biography (2015) and Overheating: An Anthropology of Accelerated Change (2016). In 2017, he was awarded the University of Oslo’s Prize for Research.
Fake News and Polarised Identities: The Struggle over Truth in an Overheated World
It is no coincidence that “fake news”, “alternative facts” and the loss of faith in formerly hegemonic knowledge have spread epidemically in the last year or two. To some extent, this is an “overheating effect” resulting from acceleated change in the production of information and widespread difficulties in navigating and negotiating different sources of knowledge. However, the deeper causes of the lost hegemony of scientific and otherwise authoritative knowledge are structural and need to be studied properly by anthropologists. The contestations over knowledge regimes witnessed in many parts of the world are directly connected to polarised identities and the rise of several kinds of populism. These are the issues to be addressed in the lecture, with examples from Europe, America and Australia.