Maintaining Ignorance: Dynamics in the Communication of Knowledge and Non-knowledge

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


The Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated that new zoonoses create social situations that involve uncertainties and lack knowledge. This raises the question of how societies and organizations handle non-knowing. Inspired by agnotology (Proctor & Schiebinger 2008) and the sociology of ignorance (Gross & Mcgoey 2015; McGoey 2012, 2019), we analyze the production and maintenance of ignorance related to the spread of livestock-associated MRSA in the Danish pig herds from 2010. This paper examines how the government of non-knowledge is entangled with strategies for governing through non-knowledge. We contribute to studies of strategic ignorance as we apply a communication-theoretical analytical lens that allows us to demonstrate how ignorance can be produced and maintained communicatively by continuously connecting to non-knowledge in situations where both knowledge and non-knowledge are marked in communication. Furthermore, we contribute to these studies by investigating how communicative dynamics are not non-political and non-strategic but are also inherently entangled with interests. Finally, we also show how knowledge and non-knowledge create different possibilities for connectivity and thus for the government of non-knowing. Communicative connections to knowledge create possibilities for action while connections to non-knowledge constitute a centripetal force generating more nonknowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event37th EGOS Colloquium 2021: Organizing for an Inclusive Society: Meanings, Motivations, and Mechanisms - Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 8 Jul 202110 Jul 2021
Conference number: 37


Conference37th EGOS Colloquium 2021
LocationVrije Universiteit
Internet address

Cite this