Social Science researchers have long understood the significance of rumors in their fieldwork settings. Rumors are defined as forms of news that are disseminated outside formal media or formal organizational authority (Donovan 2007). They are widely perceived as products of secretive or authoritarian political space. Some researchers argue that they act as sources of information in repressive political environments (Duffy 2002). Similarly, others argue that rumors are used for benign purposes. Fujii (2009) argues that rumors are used to “make sense of the information” or “stand in for knowledge.” Nordstrom (2004) shows that “when the truth is too dangerous to tell, people don’t stop talking. Instead, they shape truth into stories.”

However, rumors also stand in direct opposition to dominant narratives. Ellis (1989) showed how Cameroon President Paul Biya was acutely aware of the threat posed by rumors. In the Philippines and India, authors document about how rumors were used to erode by rebels and rivals to erode the legitimacy of governments (Guha 1983, Rafael 2003).

Other scholars oppose the use of rumors as information. Booth and Golooba-Mutebi (2012) characterize the Rwandan scholarly environment as shrouded in “unnecessary secrecy and its inevitable counterpart, unrestrained rumour mongering.” The same authors (2013) criticize other Rwanda schools for what they call “rumour-based guesswork.”

This panel calls for papers addressing the different ways in which rumors have been used by researchers in specific contexts as sources of information or for explaining resistance. This panel is also open to those who oppose the use of rumors or would like to describe the dangers of using rumors as information in specific contexts.

If you are interested, please send a 200-word abstract along with you contact information (email address, institutional affiliation) to Pritish Behuria by [email protected] by 10 March 2015.