Ignorance and non-knowledge have become the subject of a growing body of research in the social sciences and humanities, giving rise to a new “sociology of ignorance.” In this line of thought, ignorance is not merely a consequence of the limits of our knowledge practices, but a knowledge practice in its own right. Concepts such as McGoey’s ‘strategic unknowns’ also challenge the assumption that power thrives only on information: In this perspective, ignorance and non-knowledge are often actively produced, cultivated, and exploited as a resource and a strategy.
While engagements with ignorance and non-knowledge have become more salient over the past decade, there are different conceptual understandings of these phenomena across disciplines. To begin with, sociologists of ignorance have highlighted the importance of nonknowledge practices as a resource for industry actors. Moreover, political sociologists, such as Matthias Gross, have recently made more explicit links between Beck’s concept of ‘risk society’, ignorance studies, and contemporary governance of risks and security. From a slightly different perspective, political scientists approach uncertainty – sometimes termed ‘contingency’ – as an inherent condition or even mechanism of governance, rather than an instrumentally negotiated outcome of governance.
This workshop takes these different understandings and concepts as points of departure and seeks to spark an interdisciplinary dialogue. In doing so, we seek to enhance our understanding of non-knowledge practices and their consequences for democratic governance, politics and policy.