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1 - States, Knowledge and Ignorance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 November 2023

Christina Boswell
University of Edinburgh
Emile Chabal
University of Edinburgh
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Most accounts of states and knowledge see knowledge as crucial to realising state governing projects and for underpinning the ‘epistemic authority’ of the state. This chapter questions the underlying assumptions these accounts make about state motivation or rationality. Building on theories of state legitimation, it argues that we should see knowledge production as highly selective and contingent. The chapter then elaborates on the three lenses for exploring ignorance: (a) omission, inspired by theories of bounded rationality and information processing; (b) strategy, building on sociological and anthropological notions of strategic ignorance and (c) ascription, building on theories of social movements and focusing on processes of claims-making and political contestation that expose state ignorance.

States of Ignorance
Governing Irregular Migrants in Western Europe
, pp. 33 - 58
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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