Science, Medicine, and Technology in Culture Pennsylvania State University Presents a Workshop:

Agnatology: The Cultural Production of Ignorance

April 25-26, 2003, 102 Weaver Building

Robert N. Proctor and Londa Schiebinger, co-organizers


The purpose of the gathering is to explore how ignorance is produced or maintained in diverse settings, through e.g. deliberate or inadvertent neglect, secrecy and suppression, document destruction, and myriad forms of inherent or avoidable culturopolitical selectivity. The point is to develop a taxonomy of ignorance, but also tools for understanding how and why diverse forms of knowledge “did not come to be” or were delayed or long neglected, etc., at different points in history. Examples might include the ignorance of cancer hazards produced by the “doubt” peddled by trade associations (Philip Morris’s “doubt is our product”), or the non-transfer of birth control technologies from colonial outposts to imperial centers (by virtue of successive chains of disinterest and suppression), or the non-development of certain technologies by virtue of military apathy or classification status, or impacts of disciplinarity on agnatogenesis, etc. We expect our discussions to be exploratory and open-ended, with the purpose of coming to grips with how ignorance has been understood, created,and ignored, linking this also to allied creations of secrecy, uncertainty, confusion, silence, absence, impotence, etc.–especially as these pertain to scientific activities and outcomes. The idea is that a great deal of attention has been given to epistemology (the study of how we know) when “how or why we don’t know” is often at least as interesting–and remarkably undertheorized by comparison.

Schedule of Presentations:

FRIDAY, April 25

9:00 Welcome!

Morning Session. Moderator: Susan M. Squier

9:30 Robert N. Proctor, Ferree Professor of the History of Science, Co-Director SMTC, Pennsylvania State University: A Taxonomy of Forms of Agnatogenesis 10:30 Alison Wylie, Professor of Philosophy, Washington University, St. Louis: Agnatology in/of Archaeology 11:30 Clive Gamble, Professor of Archaeology and Co-founder, Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins, University of Southampton, UK : Silent Archaeology and the Triumph of Ignorance in the Past 12:30-2:00 Break

Afternoon Session. Moderator: Robert N. Proctor

2:00 Londa Schiebinger, Sparks Professor of the History of Science, and Co-Director, Science, Medicine, and Technology in Culture, Penn State=20 Univ.: West Indian Abortifacients and the Cultural Production of Ignorance 3:00 Mary Poovey, Professor of English and Director, Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge, New York University: “Ignorance and Effacement in Colonial Knowledge: “British India and the Loss of the East Indiamen” 4:00 Nancy Tuana, Professor of Philosophy and Director, Rock Ethics Institute, Penn State University: Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the=20 Epistemology of Ignorance

SATURDAY, April 26 Morning Session. Moderator: Londa Schiebinger

9:00 Dominique Pestre, Professor of History of Science and Director, Centre Alexandre Koyre Histoire des Sciences et des Techniques, Paris: Pour une politique de l’ignorance (session will be in English) 10:00 Peter Galison, Mallinckrodt Professor of the History of Science and of Physics, Harvard University: “Removing Knowledge: The Logic of Modern Censorship” 11:00 Evelynn M. Hammonds, Professor of the History of Science and of Afro-American Studies, Harvard University: TBA

12:00-2:00 Break

Afternoon Session. Moderator: Nancy Tuana

2:00 Susan M. Squier, Brill Professor of Women’s Studies and English, Pennsylvania State University: “Agnatology and Ambiguity: Bioethics and the Agency of Fiction” 3:00 Ken Alder, Associate Professor of History and Director, Science in Human Culture, Northwestern University: Anti-Faust: The Unmaking of Scientific Knowledge