Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance

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Overview


What don't we know, and why don't we know it? What keeps ignorance alive, or allows it to be used as a political instrument? Agnotology—the study of ignorance—provides a new theoretical perspective to broaden traditional questions about "how we know" to ask: Why don't we know what we don't know? The essays assembled in Agnotology show that ignorance is often more than just an absence of knowledge; it can also be the outcome of cultural and political struggles. Ignorance has a history and a political geography, but there are also things people don't want you to know ("Doubt is our product" is the tobacco industry slogan). Individual chapters treat examples from the realms of global climate change, military secrecy, female orgasm, environmental denialism, Native American paleontology, theoretical archaeology, racial ignorance, and more. The goal of this volume is to better understand how and why various forms of knowing do not come to be, or have disappeared, or have become invisible.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Anyone who thinks ignorance is nobodys business has a lot to learn from these provocative essays. The distinguished authors offer compelling evidence that what we do not know is every bit as much a product of human choice and ingenuity as what we choose to know. Agnotology rescues ignorance from the no-mans-land of unexamined social phenomena. It makes us ask what is at stake when we dont know things that are plainly before our eyes. This is a book for every thinking citizen."
—Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard University

"In the past years there have been few new fields of research as timely as agnotology. Many a time one is puzzled by the widespread ignorance of some of the greatest challenges mankind faces today, be it global warming, the way to the Iraq war, or the global tobacco epidemic. Agnotology might very well be the tool to delve into the great black holes of modern knowledge and also find a way out." —Andrian Kreye, arts and ideas editor, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Germany

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804759014
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 876,413
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Robert N. Proctor is Professor of the History of Science at Stanford University and the author of The Nazi War on Cancer (1999) and Cancer Wars: How Politics Shapes What We Know and Don't Know (1995). Londa Schiebinger is the John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science and the Barbara D. Finberg Director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. Her recent books include Plants and Empire: Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World (2004) and Gendered Innovations in Science and Engineering (forthcoming from Stanford).
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Table of Contents


Preface     vii
Agnotology: A Missing Term to Describe the Cultural Production of Ignorance (and Its Study)   Robert N. Proctor     1
Secrecy, Selection, and Suppression
Removing Knowledge: The Logic of Modern Censorship   Peter Galison     37
Challenging Knowledge: How Climate Science Became a Victim of the Cold War   Naomi Oreskes   Erik M. Conway     55
Manufactured Uncertainty: Contested Science and the Protection of the Public's Health and Environment   David Michaels     90
Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance   Nancy Tuana     108
Lost Knowledge, Lost Worlds
West Indian Abortifacients and the Making of Ignorance   Londa Schiebinger     149
Suppression of Indigenous Fossil Knowledge: From Claverack, New York, 1705 to Agate Springs, Nebraska, 2005   Adrienne Mayor     163
Mapping Ignorance in Archaeology: The Advantages of Historical Hindsight   Alison Wylie     183
Theorizing Ignorance
Social Theories of Ignorance   Michael J. Smithson     209
White Ignorance   Charles W. Mills     230
Risk Management versus the Precautionary Principle: Agnotology as a Strategy in the Debate over Genetically Engineered Organisms   David Magnus     250
Smoking Out Objectivity: Journalistic Gears in the Agnotology Machine   Jon Christensen     266
List of Contributors     283
Index     289
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