Reflections on knowledge practices and the problem of ignorance

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Much anthropological literature regards ‘knowledge’ as an unproblematic accumulation of what people claim to know about the world, their social relations, cosmology, and practices. The flip-side to knowledge, namely ignorance, however, is rarely considered. To speak of knowledge deprived of its relation to ignorance is like speaking of velocity devoid of a notion of distance. The paper explores what an anthropological conception of ignorance might look like. It reflects on the problem of ignorance in anthropological theories of knowledge, and illustrates the issues with a case study of the knowledge practices of Senegalese craftspeople and French colonial officers and administrators in West Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S176-S192
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue numberSupplement S1
Early online date1 Apr 2010
Publication statusPublished - May 2010


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