Dissertation Abstracts

Towards a Sociology of Conspiracy Theories: An Investigation into Conspiratorial Thinking on Dönmes

Author: Nefes, Turkay S, tnefes@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: University of Kent, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Professor Frank Furedi
Year of completion: 2010
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: conspiracy theories , anti-Semitism , Turkey , nationalism
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations , Communication, Knowledge and Culture


This thesis investigates the social and political significance of conspiracy theories, a subject area that has been academically neglected. The research provides a comprehensive sociological analysis of conspiracy theories by considering their political impacts and communication in light of empirical data. The findings of this study suggest that conspiracy theories appear in times of power vacuum and provide cognitive maps that relieve alienation and ontological insecurities of people and groups.

The study examines the social and political significance of conspiracy theories about the Dönme community in Turkey. The analysis comprises of interviews with conspiracy theorists, conspiracy theory readers and political parties, alongside a frame analysis of the popular conspiracy theory books on Dönmes. The findings show that the political insecurities of the Turkish Republic with regards to non-Muslim minorities and secret nature of the crypto-Jewish Dönme community facilitate the prevalence of conspiratorial accounts in Turkish mainstream politics. To begin with, the Ottoman past, an Empire that collapsed because of minority independence movements, has created an anxiety about minorities in Turkish political memory. This fear was reflected in the conspiracy theories about the Dönme community, questioning the loyalty of the group to the Turkish nation. Second, Dönmes constitute a secret society and an identity oscillating between social boundaries of outside and inside. They are neither Turks nor Jews, but both, i.e. strangers in a sociological sense, who cannot be assimilated into Turkish society. Therefore, Dönmes trigger deeper political insecurities in Turkey by representing a perfect example of the conspiratorial hidden hand mentality, that is, a minority that conceals its foreignness and its sinister aims against the unity of the country.