What is difficult knowledge?

The university contributes to the public good through the production and dissemination of knowledge, even as the scope of the public good changes over time. Yet, universities have also contributed to the absence of socially relevant knowledge through systematic exclusion of those who could produce new or alternative forms of knowledge. Further, universities sometimes act against common notions of the public good by accepting funds from corrupt organizations, investing in environmentally damaging forms of capital, and continuing to benefit from legacies of colonialism and slavery. Thus, in addition to creating socially useful knowledge, universities are sites of difficult knowledge: the material manifestation of collective trauma. Museum curators and curriculum theorists have been first to question how difficult knowledge can be addressed in educational contexts, but it is one thing to interpret and reflect upon uncomfortable subject matter in museums and school classrooms, and another to examine difficult knowledge at the site of transgression. By addressing the difficult knowledge of the university at the university, campus/community/classroom are intertwined so as to potentially form new networks for knowledge production and social understanding.

The Difficult Knowledge Project is a multi-disciplinary effort based in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada).

Lead Investigator:
Dr. Amy Scott Metcalfe, Associate Professor, http://blogs.ubc.ca/amyscottmetcalfe/

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