Multiplying Ignorance, Deferring Action: Dynamics in the Communication of Knowledge and Non-Knowledge

Morten Knudsen*, Sharon Kishik

*Corresponding author for this work

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Under the umbrella terms, ‘agnotology’, ’strategic ignorance’, and ‘willful ignorance’, scholars have identified and unpacked the mechanisms and strategies involved in producing and maintaining ignorance. These analyses tend to have in common that strategic ignorance is about avoiding, hiding, or rendering existing knowledge unreliable. Drawing on Niklas Luhmann’s sociological concept of communication, we supplement these accounts with an analysis of how ignorance can be produced and maintained by means of communicative selection. Taking the emergence of the zoonotic disease LA-MRSA in Denmark as our empirical case, we explore the management of ignorance under conditions of non-knowing. Our analysis demonstrates how ignorance may be not only maintained but also multiplied without hiding knowledge, keeping secrets, or creating doubts. The analysis thus sheds new light on the dynamics through which ignorance is produced, while knowledge is on full display and acknowledged. The analysis furthermore shows how strategic interests are coupled to ignorance by means of communicative selection.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Epistemology
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)344-359
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: 28 February 2022.


  • Agnotology
  • Ignorance
  • Non-knowledge
  • Strategic ignorance
  • Zoonosis

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