Awful Archives: Conspiracy Theory, Rhetoric, and Acts of Evidence
How does evidence happen? And when evidence happens badly, how can we find a fitting response to those making extraordinary claims? These are the questions driving Jenny Rice’s groundbreaking study into the life of evidence as she seeks to uncover why traditional modes of argument often fail in the face of claims that rely on bad evidence. The chapters make a deep dive into the nature and character of evidence itself by examining literal archives, though some quite unorthodox, as well as more popular archives that exist within public memory. Rice looks to examples that lie at the fringes of public discourse—pseudo-science, the paranormal, conspiracy theories about 9/11, the moon landing, UFO sightings, and Obama’s birth record. Such fringe examples, Rice argues, bring to light other questions about evidence that force us to reassess and move beyond traditional forms of ethics and debate.
After sketching a broader framework for understanding what evidence is, Awful Archives then asks how we can practice more ethical and productive forms of debate, especially when we’re faced with arguments that feel like a dead end. Thorough, engaging, and deeply insightful, Awful Archives: Conspiracy Theory, Rhetoric, and Acts of Evidence introduces an entirely new perspective on evidence—one that will impact the field for years to come.
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