The Epistemology of Ignorance

Embodied Emancipation
  • Kate MaguireEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Education book series (BRIEFSEDUCAT)


In 2007, 29 years after the death of Margaret Mead, Sullivan and Tuana wrote as the opening words in their innovative work Race and the Epistemologies of Ignorance Epistemology and Ignorance—how could two such different things go together? Given that epistemology is the study of how one knows and ignorance is a condition of not knowing, epistemology would seem to have nothing to do with ignorance. For the editors and authors, this epistemology of ignorance is an examination of the complex phenomenon of ignorance. Sullivan and Tuana propose that ignorance is both a gap in knowledge, an epistemic oversight that can be ‘remedied’, which comes about due to lack of time to understand and a lack of knowledge or an unlearning of something previously known for negative purposes. Whatever its definition, its impacts are marginalisation, deprivation and exploitation of different groups and individuals. It excludes vast populations of the planet from challenging, proposing, exchanging and disseminating ideas and practices that could be of benefit in the present and future. In Mead’s terms, such ignorance excludes groups and individuals from the future by trapping them in co-generational struggles that are prolonged by inherited Western colonialism and enduring political paradigms of what the future should be rather than what can evolve if all voices contribute.


Lifelong Learning Bare Breast Lifelong Education Cultural Paradigm Western Colonialism 
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Copyright information

© the Author(s) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Work Based LearningMiddlesex UniversityLondonUnited Kingdom

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