Agnotology: The Cultural Production of Ignorance

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Call for Papers

Patrick Suppes Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Science and
Technology, Stanford University

“Agnotology:  The Cultural Production of Ignorance”
  
Professors Londa Schiebinger and Robert Proctor seek papers for the
preparation of a volume introducing a new theoretical perspective and
methodology – agnotology, the cultural production of ignorance-into
interdisciplinary science studies. Papers should explore how ignorance is
produced or maintained in diverse settings, through (for example)
deliberate or inadvertent neglect, secrecy and suppression, document
destruction, and myriad forms of inherent or avoidable culturopolitical
selectivity and forgetfulness. The point is to develop a taxonomy of
understandings and uses of ignorance, but also tools for understanding how
and why diverse forms of knowledge do not or did not “come to be” or are
delayed or neglected at different points in history. Examples include the
ignorance of cancer hazards caused by the “doubt” peddled by trade
associations (Brown and Williamson’s “doubt is our product”), the
non-transfer of birth control technologies from colonial outposts to
imperial centers (by virtue of successive chains of disinterest and
suppression), the non-development of certain technologies by virtue of
structural apathies or disinterest, impacts of disciplinarity on
agnotogenesis, etc.  The proposed volume is exploratory and open-ended,
with the purpose of coming to grips with how ignorance has been
understood, created, and ignored, linking this also to allied creations of
secrecy, uncertainty, confusion, silence, forgetfulness, etc – especially
as these pertain to scientific inquiries and outcomes. The idea is that a
great deal of attention has been given to epistemology (the study of how
we know), when “how or why we don’t know” is often at least as
interesting-and remarkably undertheorized by comparison.

While the volume will focus on science, the general approach will also be
taken up in other disciplines, including cultural studies, history,
literary studies, anthropology, and sociology.
Paper proposals should include a working title plus a 300 word abstract.
Please send to Londa Schiebinger at schiebinger@stanford.edu by August 30,
2005.

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