Ignoring What Harms You: The Case of Live-stock MRSA

Publikation: Bidrag til bog/antologi/rapportKonferenceabstrakt i proceedingsForskningpeer review


The concept of ignorance, has attracted increasing interest in fields such as economics (Davies & McGoey, 2012), psychology (Hertwig & Engel, 2016), anthropology (High, Kelly, & Mair, 2012), environmental studies (Gross 2010; Kleinman & Suryanarayanan, 2012; Elliott 2013), sociology of medicine (Duttge, 2015; Heimer, 2012), organization and management studies (Bakken and Wiik, 2018; Roberts 2013) and feminist and race theory studies (Tuana and Sullivan 2006; Sullivan and Tuana 2007). The (mis)use and utility of ignorance are dominant themes in this scattered literature. But ignorance can also be of value to 'the ignorant' because, for instance, it can enable the ignorant to avoid conflicts (Hoeyer, Jensen, & Olejaz, 2015), responsibility (Luhmann, 1998; McGoey, 2012; cf. Somin, 2015) and negative insights about complications and problems (Schaefer, 2018). This paper deals with self-inflicted ignorance, but self-inflicted ignorance that is of questionable value to the ignorant. I do so by developing a concept of ignoring. Ignoring is an aspect of ignorance that involves a peculiar double structure: you need to know something in order to ignore it. In order to investigate the work it takes to ignore or repress what you know I develop a concept of ignoring – not least drawing on Bateson’s theory of information. But I will also build on and develop ideas I have previously been working with in relation to ignorance and non-knowledge (Knudsen 2011, 2017). Empirically the paper investigates a very interesting case involving multiple actors and both strategic ignorance and acts of ignoring. It is a case about LS-MRSA (live-stock Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus = MRSA CC 398). MRSA is a worldwide increasing problem as the bacteria causes infections difficult to treat. The LS-MRSA can be transmitted from animals to humans. From 2008-2014 the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration ignored warnings from acknowledged top-experts (in reports the Administration had ordered itself) that LS-MRSA probably was an upcoming problem in the Danish pig industry – and that proper investigation should be made. The ignorance involved government attempts at silencing university experts, the removal of central expert recommendations in reports to the Parlament etc. The result was that the number of breeding pigs infected with LS-MRSA increased from close to 0% in 2008 to 63% in 2014. Today practically all pigs and around 12.000 Danes are infected (most of them without any symptoms, though). In 2012-2014 4 people died because of LS-MRSA. The strategies to avoid the production of knowledge about LS-MRSA is a classic example of strategic ignorance (McGoey 2007) or agnotology (Proctor and Schiebinger 2008). But the real mystery is why the Danish Agricultural and Food Culture (the professional organization of the food and agriculture industry in DK) was so active in producing the ignorance about the risk. In the short run, it may make sense to prevent the industry from investigations (and thus probably regulation). But in the longer run, it seems very self-harming. Not only is the majority of the people infected working in the industry but they and their families have also been stigmatized as sources of infection. Furthermore, the industry now produces meat which is infected with MRSA. So why and how have the relevant lobby organizations been ignoring the information that LS-MRSA was a risk, but also something that could if acted upon relative fast, be prevented (as it has successfully been in Norway)? That is the empirical question guiding this paper.
Titel11th International Critical Management Studies Conference “Precarious Presents, Open Futures”
Antal sider2
UdgivelsesstedMilton Keynes
ForlagThe Open University
StatusUdgivet - 2019
BegivenhedThe 11th International Critical Management Studies Conference. ICMS 2019: Precarious Presents, Open Futures - The Open University Business School, Milton Keynes, Storbritannien
Varighed: 27 jun. 201929 jun. 2019
Konferencens nummer: 11


KonferenceThe 11th International Critical Management Studies Conference. ICMS 2019
LokationThe Open University Business School
ByMilton Keynes