Dying Bees and the Social Production of Ignorance

Science, Technology, and Human Values 38 (4):492-517 (2013)
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This article utilizes the ongoing debates over the role of certain agricultural insecticides in causing Colony Collapse Disorder —the phenomenon of accelerated bee die-offs in the United States and elsewhere—as an opportunity to contribute to the emerging literature on the social production of ignorance. In our effort to understand the social contexts that shape knowledge/nonknowledge production in this case, we develop the concept of epistemic form. Epistemic form is the suite of concepts, methods, measures, and interpretations that shapes the ways in which actors produce knowledge and ignorance in their professional/intellectual fields of practice. In the CCD controversy, we examine how the privileging of certain epistemic forms intersects with the social dynamics of academic, regulatory, and corporate organizations to lead to the institutionalization of three interrelated and overlapping types of ignorance. We consider the effects of these types of ignorance on US regulatory policy and on the lives of different stakeholders.



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