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Investigative ignorance in international investigations: how United Nations Panels of Experts create new relations of power by seeking information

British Journal of Sociology

Published online on

Abstract

--- - |2 Abstract How do political investigations affect relations of power? Earlier studies have focused on the empowering effects of political knowledge – in contrast, I analyse how the pursuit of such knowledge makes the investigator dependent on others. I hypothesize that where the will to know empowers others, ignorance becomes a strategic alternative. This mechanism should play out strongly at the intersection of global governance and local political crises: here, global governance actors lack knowledge, investigations often constitute the first direct interaction between actors from both sides, and solidification of power (instead of empowering others) should be a central interest of global governance actors. I first explore the hypothesized mechanisms theoretically and develop a framework to analyse dependencies between investigators and their interlocutors. This framework then facilitates a within‐case comparison of investigative approaches of United Nations Panels of Experts. The results support and elucidate the hypothesized mechanisms. The study shows how the analysis of social interaction can create new views of the much‐studied relationship between knowledge and power. - The British Journal of Sociology, EarlyView.