Understanding Disadvantage Partly through an Epistemology of Ignorance

Dermot Feenan

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    This article is concerned with the way in which ignorance is actively constituted orreproduced as an aspect of power. The significance of ignorance as an important siteof study is suggested in this article through an examination of the results of a surveyof applications by women for Silk, in recognition of senior status as an advocate, andjudicial office in Northern Ireland. The survey found that in the male-dominatedprofession of law more women than men were unsure of criteria for appointment.The survey revealed also a different perceptual world between male and femalelawyers and judges in terms of identifying disadvantage on the basis of gender. Malebarristers were twice as likely as female barristers to state that female barristers werenot under-represented in applications for Silk. None of the male judges acknowledgedthat the culture of the bench was male, while most women said it was. This survey issupported by analogous illustrations from other fields. The article concludes thatthe study of ignorance should be added to the field of vision of those working on theintersection of power/knowledge, and that identification of ignorance may requiredistinctive responses. The general observations in this article may be of relevance inother areas of anti-discrimination and equality law, policy and praxis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)509-531
    JournalSocial and Legal Studies
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2007


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