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Corona Project: From Virus to Viral Conspiracy Theories

Digital Humanities and Cross-Sectional Assignment / Research field
/ Research focus 
07.2020–12.2022 / Period (Project completed)
Dr. Claudia Böttcher, Prof. Dr. Thomas Lindenberger, Prof. Dr. Mike Schmeitzner, PD Dr. habil. Isabelle-Christine Panreck / Coordination


From Virus to Viral Conspiracy Theories. The "Spanish flu" and the COVID-19 Pandemic in Interdisciplinary and International Perspective.

The current Covid-19 pandemic poses a profound challenge for our democracy. The connection between health policy, social participation and fundamental insecurities and polarisations in everyday social life raises new questions about the democratic legitimacy of government measures. Accordingly, an interdisciplinary, state-funded research network at HAIT uses a diachronic and interdisciplinary comparison to examine the interconnections of health crisis, enemy stereotypes and anti-democratic or anti-Semitic mobilisation of the "Spanish flu" at the end of World War I and the current Covid-19 pandemic. In doing so, the historical and politological empirical studies will focus on Saxony and its adjacent neighbours in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Overall, the project consists of two components: On the one hand, an interdisciplinary team at HAIT systematically, empirically researches the health crises beginning in 1918 and 2020 and their consequences for the development of anti-Semitic or anti-democratic movements. On the other hand, an internet platform for the documentation and discussion of research on the connection between health crises, social polarisation processes and conspiracy theories is being developed at HAIT within the framework of a digital strategy designed for the project. This is intended, firstly, to ensure the scientific communication as well as the contextualisation of the empirical research results in an international context, secondly to guarantee a sustainable research data management, and thirdly to elevate HAIT's international networking activities to a new level. 

At the same time, within the framework of knowledge transfer by the project in cooperation with institutions of political education, a concrete contribution to the democratic education of broad segments of the population and thus to the protection of democracy as a whole is to be made. For this, the establishment of a joint FORUM is planned with SAW and other research institutions in the humanities funded by the Free State of Saxony, in which the contemporary historical and sociopolitical questions raised by the Covid-19 pandemic can be discussed with a wide public.

This action is partly government-financed based on the budged passed by the Saxon State Parliament.