Half-Truths, Lies and Bullsh*t: The Politics and Practices of Ignorance

9th Annual International Conference 
9 - 11 October 2023 | South Africa

Wits Centre for Diversity Studies
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

The final call for abstracts

Usually, 'ignorance' is perceived as the absence of knowledge, unconscious and nonpurposive. A more critical understanding sees ignorance as a social and epistemic achievement that is systemically deployed in the interests of certain groups or people. Ignorance operates in human relations, culture and organizations as "a pervasive and fundamental influence in human cognition, emotion, action, social relations and culture" (Smithson 2008, p. 159). People positioned differently by virtue of social structures know different things and are kept ignorant in different ways, and their intellectual, emotional and psychic lives are therefore shaped differently. Structures and epistemologies may maintain non-knowing and facilitate processes whereby what was once known is forgotten, or what could be known is repressed. Within such social conditions ignorant subjectivities are formed.

Ignorance is therefore profoundly political and engages practices to install and maintain not-knowing and to hide where and how systemic ignorance is being constructed or maintained, and whose interests are served by such not knowing. When we engage with issues of diversity, the management of ignorance plays an important role in keeping patterns of advantage and disadvantage in place, in legitimizing marginalization, violence and exploitation and in keeping dominant worldviews in place. Exposing the operations of ignorance is therefore often an important act of resistance and restitution, of refusing to forget, struggling to remember, and of restoring knowledge, ways of knowing and knowers that have been devalued and delegitimised (Smithson, 2008). It is also integral to refusing processes by which past injustices may be buried by beneficiaries of past injustices to avoid necessary social reconstruction and accountability.

We invite abstracts for our conference to be held both in person and virtually at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.


Abstracts of between 250 - 300 words should be submitted to conference.wicds@wits.ac.za Authors should provide paper title, author affiliation, contact details, pronouns, and up to 5 keywords. Please name your submission document as 'Surname_Name_Title'.

Date for abstract submission: 15 September 2023

Date for notification of outcome review: 22 September 2023

Papers may engage with the following themes, but are not limited to these: 

  • Uses of Ignorance
  • Mechanisms of ignorance
  • Ignorance as a strategy of domination/survival
  • Ignorance and subjectivity
  • Ignorance and emotions
  • Ignorance and recognition
  • Ignorance and media
  • Ignorance and religion
  • Ignorance and health/medical practices/constructions of the body
  • Ignorance and culinary/musical/artistic epistemologies
  • Ignorance and different forms of "washing" (green washing, pink washing, white washing etc)
  • Ignorance and gender/race/ethnicity/class/LGBTIQ+/disability discrimination
  • Ignorance in different social sectors
  • Ignorance and levels of consciousness/unconsciousness/intentionality