This chapter discusses an idea shared among some economists: people actively and consciously only acquire the knowledge that will be instrumental in achieving their clearly defined, substantive goals. Accordingly, people resist knowledge when it costs more time, money, and other resources than it benefits their efforts towards reaching their goals. The chapter presents three versions of this idea. One contends that people always know what knowledge they resist, and that they oppose it for the reason mentioned above. The second is the notion that people usually resist knowledge in a goal-rational way, although they sometimes fail. The third contends that each individual is several persons over time, with partly conflicting preferences. Although each person within the individual always resists knowledge rationally given their time-limited goal, their resistance can be irrational given the goals of their other persons. The chapter adds an alternative to these views. Whereas the perspectives of ‘rational ignorance’ in this chapter focus on substantive costs (regarding time, money, effort, health, and the environment), the Dionysian, deeply social interest and the social rationality associated with it need to be incorporated into any analysis of the costs behind knowledge acquisition.
This chapter, written in question-and-answer form, concludes by re-asking and answering some of the fundamental questions that have been discussed throughout the book. It explains briefly why our social motivation and social interests are among the most important reasons for our knowledge resistance. Furthermore, the chapter distinguishes between scepticism and knowledge resistance, and explains how beneficial versus harmful knowledge resistance can be detected. It also covers a short discussion of the potential for ignorance to make people and groups in some situations think in a freer, less dogmatic, and more productive way. Finally, the chapter mentions ways to reduce problematic knowledge resistance through structural measures.
This chapter shows an influential factor in making sense of concrete cases of knowledge resistance: people’s concerns about what would happen in culture and politics if they didn’t resist a particular knowledge claim. The chapter uses the example of knowledge about biological evolution to illustrate three ways that people interpret such knowledge. The first is that society should imitate evolution, with its competition and pressures, particularly on weaker individuals, as a model for society and politics. Social Darwinism contends this view. The second is to resist knowledge claims that biological evolution interacts with culture in shaping, for instance, male control and violence on women. Parts of the social sciences and cultural studies imply this view. The third is that we should recognise and learn about human evolution to better combat its cultural expressions where we acknowledge their harm. Men’s frequent attempts at controlling and exerting violence on women are examples of this. Although this chapter endorses the third view, the chapter concludes with a self-critical discussion about the challenges that remain in choosing between whether to resist or combat knowledge that we know will make groups apply the knowledge in a harmful way.
This chapter describes phenomena that are typically discussed in the same breath as knowledge resistance. Scepticism is here described as the opposite of knowledge resistance, since scepticism implies a readiness to accept a knowledge claim once the evidence and arguments are strong enough. Knowledge resistance, on the other hand, implies immunity to evidence and arguments. The chapter also discusses the difference between fact resistance and knowledge resistance. The latter term is preferred in this book because the common complaints about fact resistance fail to address how it is possible to lie and deceive oneself with correct facts. Fact resistance is not the whole story when people and groups seem to avoid crucial insights about climate change, vaccination, crime prevention, or social well-being. The chapter shows why knowledge resistance is a far more useful concept in order to fully understand and handle stubborn avoidance of insight. In introducing knowledge resistance, the chapter also indicates how it can’t be reduced to an emotional, passionate mindset. Nor can acceptance of seemingly valid knowledge claims be reduced to a ‘reason-oriented mindset’. The chapter ends with some additional remarks about what knowledge resistance is and isn’t.
This chapter looks at two additional sides of knowledge, sides that partly fall within ‘strategic ignorance’. The first is to resist knowledge when it carries with it a moral and social responsibility. This includes knowledge about genetically carried diseases of ourselves or others, or practical information on how we could do more to reduce the suffering of others, for instance in the developing world. The second side is to resist knowledge when ignorance opens up opportunities that would have been difficult if you knew ‘too much’. Convincing others – and yourself – that you are ignorant about specific occurrences can in some cases be of great value. These include certain innovative environments and even scientific fields where ‘fresh thinkers’ and ‘blank slates’ may sometimes be seen as increasing the chances of thinking outside the box. The chapter also shows three different ways of ignoring knowledge strategically, often in organisational settings: deny, dismiss, and divert. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion about how to assess and distinguish harmful versus beneficial knowledge resistance.
In this chapter, the picture is broadened from descriptions of how community-based knowledge resistance takes place to why such patterns are so prevalent. To do this, the chapter combines perspective about human biological evolution with anthropological and sociological thought. What – if anything – could be the ‘adaptive value’ of knowledge resistance of groups? Could different chances of survival and reproduction throughout the long human history be associated with differences in people’s inclination to conform to the knowledge beliefs of their community? Community-based knowledge conformity is here illustrated by an examination of religious and scientific groups. The chapter also sheds light on such conformity in the context of male-dominated audiophile communities in their passionate pursuit of the perfect stereo-system sound. The more sceptical science is about the superiority of some audio equipment over other, the more it strengthens the sense of audiophile communities to insist that the double-blind comparisons of audio equipment carried out by scientists lack the sensitivity and sophistication of the golden ears of audiophiles.
Throughout the cases addressed in the book, it is clear that over the last two decades there has been a shift in ideas about the purpose of heritage and the production of public memory in contemporary South Africa. The concluding chapter argues that one of the reflections of these shifting ideas and contestations has been in the relationship between the material culture of heritage and the everyday practices of memory. The ephemeral and performative processes of memory-making explored in the book suggest alternative and at times subversive forms of inscribing memory into public space as a form of collectively authored spatial archive. The case studies suggest possibilities for a process of productive conflict in the making of memory, which this chapter argues is an essential component of a radically participatory, democratic process of constructing urban public space and public memory.
This chapter focuses on memory work related to the apartheid-era forced removals that took place in the neighbourhood of South End and other city centre areas in the 1960s and 1970s. These include the South End Museum, a small community museum at the edge of the destroyed neighbourhood, as well as privately initiated memory projects by former residents such as walking tours, photographic archives, conversations, exhibitions and self-published books. The chapter includes discussion of the history and the memorial strategies of the South End Museum, a largely volunteer-run institution that survives on minimal funding or ‘official’ support. The museum and particularly its photographic and visual approaches are linked with neighbourhood walking tours, both those that are formally offered through the museum and informal tours by former residents. Martha Langford’s (2001) image of the photograph as a ‘suspended conversation’ connects the work that the photographs in the museum do to the ruins and traces of South End that the walker encounters in the landscape. Both are a means of accessing the past, requiring some form of interpolation – either textual, or in the form of conversation and verbal storytelling. In this sense, ruins, images and personal archives all function as half-complete conversations between past and present. These threads are pulled together in a discussion of the exhibition Double Vision and the events and conversations associated with it.
The introduction provides a theoretical framework for the book’s examination of the intersection between public memory, public space and urban transformation. In South Africa, as elsewhere, the politics of memory are inherently spatialised, both through physical traces in landscapes and through the structure and layout of urban and public spaces. The introductory chapter makes a case for the inherent intertwining of twenty-first-century spatial transformation in cities, and the transformation (and contestation) of the politics of public memory. Through this discussion, the introduction outlines the ways in which the city can be read as a form of archive, and how this reading is helpful for understanding public memory’s appearances and disappearances in urban public space. This chapter also makes the case for the study of these questions in the context of this particular post-apartheid city in the twenty-first century, and provides the rationale for Nelson Mandela Bay as an appropriate site through which to examine these questions and their broader continental and global relevance. It positions the city’s recent history in the context of South African and global politics, and argues for the value of examining and understanding this period through the lens of public memory and urban transformation.
This chapter outlines the history of the Red Location Museum of Struggle and the ‘cultural precinct’ in which it is located, a major piece of post-apartheid public architecture and a flagship heritage and arts project initiated by the city council in 1997. The Red Location Cultural Precinct is located in the oldest portion of New Brighton township, an informal settlement dating to 1902, as both a ‘developmental’ and a memory project. It proved enormously contentious from the outset. Delays in delivering promised state-subsidised formal housing alongside the museum, and lack of transparency in the allocation of these houses to residents once built, were the catalyst for protests on the museum’s doorstep between 2003 and 2005. In 2009, two new buildings were added to the precinct: an art gallery and a state-of-the-art digital library – although neither building has ever been staffed or operationalised. Further protests broke out in the course of 2013, eventually resulting in the closure of the museum. Through this history, the chapter introduces issues related to heritage, memory and the politics of post-apartheid urban transformation that structure the remainder of the book. In particular, it considers the limitations of the concepts of ‘community’, ‘participation’ and ‘development’ as they have been used in this and other urban contexts, and some of the ironies and inherent contradictions in these rhetorics of development.