On the Politics of Ignorance in Nursing and Health Care

Knowing Ignorance

By Amelie Perron, Trudy Rudge

© 2016 – Routledge

112 pages

Purchasing Options:
Hardback: 9781138819665
pub: 2015-08-25
US Dollars$160.00

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About the Book

Ignorance is mostly framed as a void, a gap to be filled with appropriate knowledge. In nursing and health care, concerns about ignorance fuel searches for knowledge expected to bring certainty to care provision, preventing risk, accidents, or mistakes. This unique volume turns the focus on ignorance as something productive in itself and works to understand how ignorance and its operations shape what we do and do not know.

Focusing explicitly on nursing practice and its organization within contemporary health settings, Perron and Rudge draw on contemporary interdisciplinary debates to discuss social processes informed by ignorance, ignorance’s temporal and spatial boundaries, and how ignorance defines what can be known by specific groups with differential access to power and social status. Using feminist, postcolonial and historical analyses, this book challenges dominant conceptualizations and discusses a range of "nonknowledges" in nursing and health work, including uncertainty, abjection, denial, deceit and taboo. It also explores the way dominant research and managerial practices perpetuate ignorance in healthcare organisations.

In health contexts, productive forms of ignorance can help to future-proof understandings about the management of healthy/sick bodies and those caring for them. Linking these considerations to nurses’ approaches to challenges in practice, this book helps to unpack the power situated in the use of ignorance and pays special attention to what is safe or unsafe to know, from both individual and organisational perspectives.

On the Politics of Ignorance in Nursing and Health Care is an innovative read for all students and researchers in nursing and the health sciences interested in understanding more about transactions between epistemologies, knowledge building practices and research in the health domain. It will also be of interest to scholars involved in the interdisciplinary study of ignorance.


Perron and Rudge provide an indispensible and clearly articulated work that situates the concept of ignorance in its rightful place as knowledge. The remarkable notion that nurses and others in health care pay attention to what is unknown, silenced, hidden, glossed over, and simply ignored should become an essential—a foundation to practice that is rooted in critical analysis. This is an important book as we head further into the 21st century, where the recognition and acknowledgement of what we do not know may be just the thing that saves humans and the planet. On the Politics of Ignorance in Nursing and Health Care is imperative reading to underpin the framework of any pedagogical, scholarly, clinical, administrative, or activist endeavor.

Paula N. Kagan, PhD, RN, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, DePaul University Chicago, USA

Editor, Philosophies and Practices of Emancipatory Nursing: Social Justice as Praxis, Routledge, 2014 (with Marlaine C. Smith and Peggy L. Chinn)

Perron and Rudge have delivered a provocative and original work. Shining a light on the darkness of ignorance, the authors reveal its uses and its political power in health care policy and practice. An intelligent and penetrating piece of scholarship, this is a book to unsettle the reader's certainties. Be prepared to embrace an ethics of discomfort!

Sioban Nelson, Professor, Vice-Provost Academic Programs, Vice-Provost Faculty and Academic Life, University of Toronto, Canada

This is a remarkable book. It reminds of the importance of doubt, uncertainty and immersion for knowledge. Moving between philosophical insight, sociological theory and empirical example, it offers a unique approach to

interrogating nursing and health care practice. Its insight is to put ignorance centre stage for illuminating the biopolitics of how nurses conduct care.

Joanna Latimer, Professor of Sociology, Cardiff Universiy, School of Social Science

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Ignorance: Current Conceptualisation 3. Ignorance… Knowledge Interrupted 4. Abjection, Taboo and Dangerous Knowledge 5. The (Bio)Politics of Ignorance 6. Ignorance in Nursing: Its Uses and Abuses 7. Conclusion

About the Authors

Amélie Perron is Associate Professor in the School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, Canada.

Trudy Rudge is the Professor of Nursing (Social Sciences and Humanities) at Sydney Nursing School, University of Sydney, Australia.

About the Series

Routledge Key Themes in Health and Society

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MEDICAL / Nursing / Research & Theory
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Disease & Health Issues