Dangerous Memes and Lucifer's Genes: Anti-Vaccine Narratives In Russia And Which Of Them Really Matter

With Dr. Alexandra Arkhipova, Wilson Center, Washington DC / Russia, RANEPA


Department of Slavic Languages
Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies

Event Details:

Date: Tuesday, November 16, 2021
Time: 4:00-5:30 pm ET

This event is hybrid (on zoom and in McGhee Library).  A small amount of seats is available for those part of Georgetown University who would like to attend in person.

If interested, RSVP by emailing In your email, indicate your preference to attend in person or virtually.  Confirmation (and zoom link, if applicable), will be emailed to registered participants.  Limited seating is available for approximately 15 people.

About the Event:

Russia was the first country to develop a vaccine (named Sputnik V) against Covid-19, and to start a vaccination program in December 2020.  But a brave new Covid-free world was never built in Russia. According to polls conducted from May to August of 2021, 55-65% of respondents said that they were not going to be vaccinated, despite the fact that the daily death and infection-rates are currently at their highest since the beginning of the epidemic.  
Many researchers and opinion leaders blame anti-vaccine rumors for this vaccine-hesitancy.  The number and variety of such rumors is truly enormous: our research team collected 11 millions reposts of Covid-rumors in social media, and the plurality of them (43%) are about vaccines. However, anti-vaccine narratives and memes affect people's behavior in different ways. During the lecture, Dr. Arkhipova will show what a philologist and folklorist can do in the situation of such a social catastrophe:  we will analyze the structure and functions of these narratives and how people are making decisions based on these rumors, and finally we will see which of them are the most dangerous in a social sense.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Alexandra Arkhipova is a Senior Research Fellow and Head of the “Contemporary Folklore Monitoring” research group at the School of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, in the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. She also holds professorships at the Russian State University for the Humanities and the Russian School of Economics. She is a leading expert on political jokes, rumors, and legends, on the concept of money in traditional society, and on the anthropology of protest. Along with her research group she is currently engaged on a years-long study of "infodemia," WHO’s term for the spate of false and potentially dangerous misinformation that flows through and infects the public discourse much like a viral pandemic. Her book Dangerous Soviet Things: Urban Legends and Fear in the USSR, written with Anna Kirzyuk, won the Liberal Mission Prize for the best analysis of current events.
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