A Critical Perspective on Conspiracy Theories wins Create a Course Challenge 2021

University of Amsterdam

Leonie von Platen, a third-year Bachelor’s student in Politics, Psychology, Law & Economics​ (PPLE), has won the Create a Course Challenge. In the following months, the curriculum developers of the IIS will further develop the course together with her.

During the live finale of the Create a Course Challenge, the five finalists presented their ideas for a new, interdisciplinary elective course to the jury and the audience on the Room for Discussion stage at the Roeterseiland campus. The host of the grand finale was lecturer Merel Talbi, who lead the participants and the audience in an enthusiastic and entertaining manner.

The five finalists all made a strong impression with their skilful presentations of their ideas. The topics of their course ideas were decolonisation, managing personal finances, the Internet, conflict situations and conspiracy theories.

The members of the jury, Linda de Greef, programme manager Educational development at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS), Lucy Wenting, director of the IIS, and Manish Jhinkoe-Rai, chairman of the Central Student Council of the UvA, have assessed the different course ideas on five criteria: interdisciplinarity societal relevance, innovative forms of teaching and learning, assessment and originality. The jury was impressed by the societal relevance and the academic level of Leonie’s plan “Everything is some kind of plot, man”: A Critical Perspective on Conspiracy Theories. In this course, conspiracy theories will be approached from three different angles and crucial questions that contribute to the learning goals of the course are raised.

The theme of conspiracy theories is more important now than ever. It is nice to see that neutrality is guaranteed in this course, which is reflected in the fact that it looks at why conspiracy theorists think the way they do, which is very relevant today.
Chairman of the jury, Manish Jhinkoe-Rai

Content of the course

For as long as they’ve existed, conspiracy theories have been laughed off by mainstream media; yet their story-telling power and psychological underpinnings are not to be underestimated. “Everything is some kind of plot, man”: A Critical Perspective on Conspiracy Theories investigates the complex nature of conspiracies by asking: Who believes in conspiracy theories? How is a certain narrative maintained across people and contexts? What role does fear play?

The aim is to approach the phenomenon with respect, without making normative judgements, and acknowledging the danger of ridiculing them. while feeding a curiosity for uncovering the inner mechanisms and functions of conspiracy theories.

Simultaneously, a critically receptive approach will be promoted and curiosity about the inner mechanisms and functions of conspiracy theories will be nurtured. In the coming months, the IIS educational developers, together with Leonie von Platen, will further develop the idea into an actual course, which will be offered to UvA students of all faculties as an interdisciplinary elective in the second semester of the academic year 2022-2023.

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