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Post-truth anthropology – published in Anthropology Today

A guest editorial on ‘Post-truth anthropology’ that I wrote for Anthropology Today is out today. It’s paywalled, I’m happy to send the text on request if you can’t access it. Edit: it has now been made open access for a period of 6 months — if it’s paywalled again by the time you read this and you can’t access it but want a copy, comment on this post and I’ll send it to you.


Countless commentators have announced the advent of the post-truth era, but while everyone seems to be talking about it, there is little agreement about what it really means. This article argues that anthropology can make an important and distinctive contribution to understanding post-truth by treating it ethnographically. Commonly proposed explanations for post-truth include changes in political culture, in the structure of information in the digital age and universal cognitive weaknesses that limit people’s capacity for critical thought. While all these are likely important factors, they do not account for the role of culture in creating and sustaining post-truth. In fact, it is likely that culture, especially in the form of metacognition, or thought about thought, plays an important role by providing knowledge practices, techniques for allocating attention, and especially competing theories of truth. Ethnographic methods provide anthropologists with a distinctive window on post-truth cultures of metacognition.

Source: Post-truth anthropology – Mair – 2017 – Anthropology Today

Announcing: Ignorance Studies Listserv

see, hear, speak no evil, Chris Walkington


I’ve set up a JISCMail mailing list for discussion of the social scientific study of ignorance. The list will be publicly archived. To subscribe or contribute, click HERE.

Get in touch with me if you have any questions.

(The image above is ‘see, hear, speak no evil’ by Chris Walkington, and was the cover image we used for Anthropology of Ignorance.)

New Sociology of Ignorance web resource

There is a great new resource on the sociology of ignorance at: http://www.sociologyofignorance.com/.

The site is run by Joanne Gaudet and supported by Matthias Gross. It already has a very useful bibliography.

Ignorance and Power, Critical Studies in Education 50(3)

Here’a another exercise in the anthropology of ignorance, this time focused on ignorance in education — a special issue of Critical Studies in Education from 2009.

The introduction, by Neriko Musha Doerr explains:

While resonating with Bourdieu’s theoretical formulation that it is relations of dominance that create the legitimacy of knowledge, this project pushes a step further and argues that the relations of dominance can create legitimacy even in ignorance.

Mini Special Issue: Ignorance and power: acknowledgment of not knowing and relations of dominance [paywall]

Critical Studies in Education 50(3) (2009)

Ignorance Mobilization – Joanne Gaudet

I’ve just come across the work of Joanne Gaudet, a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa who has been working on issues of ignorance and the productivity of ignorance from a sociological — and especially sociology of science — point of view. She has a website with a number of interesting looking working papers at http://www.ignorancemobilization.com.

She defines ‘ignorance mobilisation’ as follows:

Ignorance Mobilization
“The use of the borders and the limits of knowing, including the intentional and the unintentional consideration or bracketing out of what is not known, towards the achievement of goals (i.e., social, cultural, political, professional, and economic)”
(Gaudet, 2012, Gaudet et al., 2012)

Ignorance mobilization complements ‘knowledge mobilization’ in the social scientific investigation of research and innovation.

Paul Stoller: Social Engineering and the Politics of Ignorance

Paul Stoller has a post on the Huffington Post on education, ignorance and politics. Some of what he has to say relates to policies that aim to constrain the acquisition of knowledge. Here’s one example I find particularly astounding, not because it is an unusual position to take historically speaking, but because it comes from a political party in an adversarial system. You would think that participants in such a system would at least have to give lip service to the idea of clarity and independent thinking, but perhaps it’s only children they don’t want thinking about thinking.


We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

via Paul Stoller: Social Engineering and the Politics of Ignorance.

Cultures of Ignorance: CFP, 17th World Congress of the IUAES, Manchester 2013

17th World Congress of the IUAES

Jenny Diggins (Sussex) and I have just issued the following call for papers for a panel on the anthropology of ignorance, to be held at the IUAES Congress in Manchester next summer. Feel free to get in touch if you’re considering submitting a proposal but want to discuss it first. 


Call for Papers at the IUAES Congress, at the University of Manchester, 5th-10th August 2013

Panel Title :  Cultures of Ignorance

Deadline for abstracts : 13th July 2012


US Discount flyer for Anthropology of Ignorance

A 20% discount flyer for The Anthropology of Ignorance valid for purchases from Palgrave USA (but not from the UK Palgrave—sorry!) can be downloaded using the link below:

High, Kelly, and Mair (eds.) 2012. The Anthropology of Ignorance: An Ethnographic Approach—flyer

The Anthropology of Ignorance

High, C., A. Kelly & J. Mair (2012). The Anthropology of Ignorance: An Ethnographic Approach

High, C., Kelly, A., Mair, J. (eds.) 2012. The Anthropology of Ignorance: An Ethnographic Approach. New York & Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

A new volume on the anthropology of ignorance, which I edited with Casey High and Ann Kelly, came out last week with Palgrave. I’m really pleased with the finished product, and that’s all down to the contributors who have produced some excellent chapters…and stuck to all the deadlines—many thanks to all of you!