The clash of ignorance thesis presents a critique of the clash of civilizations theory. It challenges the assumptions that civilizations are monolithic entities that do not interact and that the Self and the Other are always opposed to each other. Despite some significantly different values and clashes between Western and Muslim civilizations, they overlap with each other in many ways and have historically demonstrated the capacity for fruitful engagement.
The clash of ignorance thesis makes a significant contribution to the understanding of intercultural and international communication as well as to the study of inter-group relations in various other areas of scholarship. It does this by bringing forward for examination the key impediments to mutually beneficial interaction between groups.
The thesis directly addresses the particular problem of ignorance that other epistemological approaches have not raised in a substantial manner. Whereas the critique of Orientalism deals with the hegemonic construction of knowledge, the clash of ignorance paradigm broadens the inquiry to include various actors whose respective distortions of knowledge symbiotically promote conflict with each other. It also augments the power-knowledge model to provide conceptual and analytical tools for understanding the exploitation of ignorance for the purposes of enhancing particular groups’ or individuals’ power.
Whereas academics, policymakers, think tanks, and religious leaders have referred to the clash of ignorance concept, this essay contributes to its development as a theory that is able to provide a valid basis to explain the empirical evidence drawn from relevant cases.
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Karim H. Karim is a Professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, where he was formerly the Director (2006-2009). He has also served as Co-Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, UK and Visiting Scholar at Harvard University in 2004. Before joining academia, he worked as Senior Researcher and as Senior Policy Analyst in the Department of Canadian Heritage.