Willful Hermeneutical Ignorance and the “Critical Race Theory” Controversy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In this article, Barbara Applebaum examines “the inability to disagree claim” as it arises in objections made by those who want to ban “critical race theory” from being taught in schools and universities. Employing insights from the recent scholarship around willful hermeneutical ignorance, she discerns the important role that marginalized conceptual resources play in conditions of just and constructive dialogue. When such resources are misinterpreted and denied uptake, the resulting harm impedes the epistemic agency of marginally situated knowers. Applebaum claims that many high-profile anti–“critical race theory” arguments put forth by politicians, scholars, and others are a form of willful hermeneutical ignorance, and she concludes by showing how more just communications, in which disagreement is distinguishable from dismissal, can be achieved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)689-702
Number of pages14
JournalEducational Theory
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • critical race theory
  • democratic dialogue
  • disagreement
  • hermeneutical injustice
  • willful ignorance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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