Is there such a thing as ‘white ignorance’ in British education?

Zara Bain*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
1012 Downloads (Pure)


I argue that political philosopher Charles W. Mills’ twin concepts of ‘the epistemology of ignorance’ and ‘white ignorance’ are useful tools for thinking through racial injustice in the British education system. While anti-racist work in British education has a long history, racism persists in British primary, secondary and tertiary education. For Mills, the production and reproduction of racism relies crucially on cognitive and epistemological processes that produce ignorance, and which promote various ways of ignoring the histories and legacies of European colonialism and imperialism, as well as the testimonies and scholarship of those who experience racism in their everyday lives. I survey these concepts within Mills’ work then marshal evidence in support of my claim that ‘the epistemology of ignorance’ and ‘white ignorance’ provide a useful framework for thinking through problems of racial injustice in British education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-21
Number of pages18
JournalEthics and Education
Issue number1
Early online date25 Jan 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jan 2018


  • British imperialism
  • Charles W. Mills
  • Racism in education
  • the Racial Contract
  • white curriculum
  • white ignorance


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