Ignorance looms large in our current political discourses. From the ignorance of epidemiological facts shaping pandemic policy and public compliance or willful ignorance of climate change which continues to perpetuate the reliance of fossil fuels to naive ignorance of epistemic exclusions that to reproduce marginalizations on the basis of race and gender, ignorance takes center stage in key public debates. With so much putative ignorance around, one might get the impression that ignorance more than knowledge gives shape to contemporary political cultures. Yet, with a more careful eye towards how ignorance functions, it is clear that we are not dealing with a singular idea. Rather, there are multiple discourses around, definitions of, and practices built on ignorance. This seminar will distinguish between two particular modalities of ignorance: positive and negative ignorance. That is, 1) ignorance defined through the absence of specific forms of knowledge, and 2) ignorance defined in terms of someone‚Äôs positionality in and situated knowledge of a complex system. The course traces the first modality of ignorance via its deployment in current political debates such as climate change, racial marginalization, and intersectional feminism. In these discourses, ignorance functions as a foundation for critique, as a moral imperative, and even as basis for political activism. The second modality of ignorance, perhaps better understood in terms of aporia, can be found today in a variety of positive programs for dealing with complexity (aporetics) such as administrative decentralization, neoliberal economics, and even public sector design. The course will introduce some of the epistemological and practical preconditions for such aporetic governance. Finally, the seminar asks what forms of research, ethical conduct, and political practices may be mobilized in response to or built upon ignorance and aporia.  

Semester: WiTerm 2022/23