How to Ignore What One Knows : Domesticating Uncomfortable Knowledge about Pesticide Poisoning of Farmers in France
Revue française de sociologie
FR : Presses de Sciences Po
91 - 115 p.
Production of ignorance, Pesticides, Farmers, Occupational health, Risk assessment
Current research into the social construction of ignorance holds either that it is produced by conscious strategies or that it is an unintended effect of knowledge production organization. The present article moves beyond that opposition by bringing in the reflexivity of actors implicated in the organized systems that produce ignorance. What happens when those actors become aware of limitations in the routines that structure their action? What change dynamics are triggered by this new awareness? The case analysed here is the French public policy devoted to prevent farmers from pesticides poisoning. By studying the ban of the sodium arsenite in France in 2001, we show how this policy can manage "uncomfortable" knowledges that challenge its ordinary institutional arrangements. We bring to light the mechanisms by which the organizations that produce these uncomfortable knowledges also provide their members with "good reasons" to ignore it, defusing or neutralizing their critical faculties and avoiding undertaking the institutional changes that clearly should be made in response to that knowledge.