“The real-time, informal [epistemic forms of commercial beekeepers] provide knowledge that is meaningful and useful […] but is illegitimate in the worlds of professional honey bee toxicologists and government regulators.”
-Daniel Kleinman and Sainath Suryanarayanan, “Dying Bees and the Social Production of Ignorance”
A few weeks ago I was on a walk late at night, and my friend said we should stop by Blair Park with the zip line. During the day it’s packed with kids, but at night big kids like us can get a turn. I thought it was a fantastic idea. I turned to walk that way, heading north, and my friend paused behind me. They pointed east. “This way, right?” they said. And I paused.
I paused because, after a moment of thinking, east was absolutely the way we should go. But when I walk to Blair Park I go through one neighborhood, and when I walk to my friend’s house I go through another neighborhood. I’d never walked from my friend’s neighborhood directly to the park. Without really thinking I’d turned to piece together the familiar roads where I always went, but now I turned to follow my friend. Looking back later, the moment made me think about Kleinman and Suryanarayanan.
Their point with bees is not just about the paths we walk. It’s about what those paths show us, and what those paths encourage us to miss. It’s about knowledges that, in my mental landscape, have nowhere to be. Someone who spends a lot of time on zip lines knows something about momentum that a crash test operator might miss (and vice versa, I think). So I’ve been asking what knowledges I’ve been taught to listen to a lot. I’ve been thinking about what knowledges I’ve been taught aren’t even “there.” I’ve been following friends, and going back to the zip line, the rush of the night air.