Current and past scandals in the areas of health and the environment have revealed troubling connections between private companies and the governmental institutions that make our public policy. There are a wealth of examples from which to choose. For decades, consumers and workers have been exposed to pesticides containing glyphosate (now known to be a probable carcinogen). PFAS, a class of persistent contaminants that are produced during petrochemical industrial process, have polluted rivers and groundwater in both Europe and the United States for decades. And most recently, there has been a concerning lack of transparency between corporations involved in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine and the European commission.
Many scholars have addressed conflicts of interest between government and business and the lobbying of public institutions. However, a groundbreaking field called 'agnotology' has recently emerged allowing scholars in history, political science, law and economy, a fresh lens to address these problems. Deriving from the classical Greek word agnosis, 'not knowing', agnotology describes not simply ignorance, but rather both the calculated and uncalculated structural production of unknowledge. Lack of knowledge has always been a structural issue for both citizens and civil society. Agnotology unveils how ignorance, instead of knowledge, is produced by intricate power relationships between science, politics and economic actors.
This issue goes beyond the environmental health problems, and concerns many topics such as military secrecy, security, discrimination, domestic violence, occupational health, to name but a few. This workshop allows some of the main names in the field of agnotology to discuss recent and innovative work in an interdisciplinary dialogue. The speakers will address the ways in which shadows of knowledge are shaping how we address, or fail to address, some of the most urgent problems of our time.