Disruptive Narratives. A New Research Paradigm


  • Jan Alber
  • Thomas Niehr
  • Hans-Jörg Sigwart


In this article, we seek to delineate a new research program that involves the analysis of disruptive narratives. The term covers conspiracy narratives, stories spread in the context of disinformation campaigns, and populist discourse, but also radical challenges to our life styles. Some of these stories propose largely invented (or fictive) realities, while others are still clearly fact-based. What all disruptive narratives have in common is their potential to shock: they try to present radically alternative events and thus urge their recipients to challenge established authorities. For us ‘disruption’ is a descriptive and thus ethically neutral term that merely signals an interest in disturbing a given political order.  Such stories deserve greater attention because they play an ever more important role in the public spheres in Western countries such as Britain, Germany, or the US. We will thus address questions such as: How are these narratives structured? What about the interplay between the content and the form? What are these stories trying to achieve? What about their ideological ramifications or political consequences? Who spreads them? Who feels attracted by them?