The Politics of Ignorance

The updates to the syllabus are now available.

This seminar brings together three anthropologists from different universities to discuss ideologies and practices of knowledge, learning, and schooling in America, discussions in which they have been engaged for a couple of decades. The seminar is sponsored jointly by Berkeley and Stanford, and will travel between the two campuses.

Three principles guide the reading in this seminar. First, conceptions of ignorance, failure, and disability are never fashioned innocently nor in pristine isolation. Rather, they are constituted in relations with their opposite numbers--intellectual profundity, academic recognition, and genius. One way to explore contemporary practices and ideologies that separate--but depend on--common conceptions of “superior” knowledge, learning and education is “from below.” But more important is to ask questions about relations between claims about ignorance and elite knowledge, disability and genius, success and failure. And if those relations are ideological and political this raises further questions: What ideolgy? Whose? In whose interests and with what political tensions are these relations enacted and sustained? Not terra incognito, this is nonetheless rarely explored. Second, it is too easy to assume that a catalogue of ills most readily invoked when bemoaning the shortcomings of schooling is first of all, or only, about that. It is instructive to cast our net over academic life generally, as well as sites far and wide, where the politics of stupidity in one guise or another, shape our lives. How are these relations made in the far-reaching, heterogeneous contexts of everyday living as they are forged and enforced in school contexts? How do analytic arguments that insist on going beyond the customary confines of discussions of knowledge production, acquistion, and distribution help us to understand the educationalized predicaments of American daily life?