Call for Papers

CfP for a special issue of Science as Culture (SaC)

Institutionalized Ignorance in Policy & Regulation

Guest Editors:

  • Katharina T. Paul, Senior Research Fellow, University of Vienna
  • Samantha Vanderslott, Social Science Researcher, University of Oxford
  • Matthias Gross, Professor of Environmental Sociology, University of Jena

In recent years public debate has increasingly focused on competing knowledge and non-knowledge claims, their legitimacy and accountability, and the intentional ignorance of fact and evidence. In concerns over “misinformation”, “disinformation” or “fake news”, a cultural narrative pervades that suggests trust in institutions and expertise is at threat, and that illegitimate sources have been elevated. Socio-political instabilities and the rise of populism compound fears of a loss in institutional trust, aided by technological developments and new ways to interact with technology. These fears focus on types of knowledge claims that are intentionally or demonstrably false. Conversely, the mere absence of knowledge or information (rather than falsehood) in policymaking and regulation, has received little attention in political discourse.

In parallel, ignorance and non-knowledge have become the subject of a growing body of research in several disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. The starting point of this scholarship is typically that ignorance is not merely a consequence of our limited capacities as knowers or an innate state of not-yet-knowing (Proctor 2009), nor is ignorance merely an absence of knowledge or a by-product of knowledge practices. Instead, scholars informed by what has become known as “agnotology” (Proctor and Schiebinger 2008) argue that ignorance is structurally and even purposefully produced. This special issue proceeds from this starting point and collects papers that focus on institutionalized forms of ignorance in policy and regulation. Papers are required to articulate conceptions and forms of ignorance along three axes: (i) the strategies of institutionalized ignorance as a part of how institutions operate, depending on the intended goals and agencies of institutions, (ii) what scale of enquiry is taken to view institutional ignorance, and (iii) the stakes that these activities have for public accountability.

We are seeking papers that substantively address institutionalized ignorance, rather than ignorance more generally, as it relates to political processes, policymaking, and regulation. We welcome contributions based on empirical case studies, as well as conceptual papers, but seek to prioritize the former category.

Find the full call for papers here and journal guidelines here.