Soviet classifications and situated knowledges

Chloe Edwards


The most recent literature on systemic bias in classification has focused on how to most responsibly handle the bias that is inevitable in knowledge organization, rather than on eliminating it altogether. On the foundation of Donna Haraway’s work on situated knowledges, Feinberg has argued for multiple knowledge domains of acknowledged perspectives and care on the classificationist’s part for the rhetorical argument advanced by his classification; Mai has argued for the citation of cognitive authorities in classification work. These are all solutions which were implemented for ideological purposes in the Soviet library and bibliographic classifications created in the first half of the twentieth century. Far from producing responsible or accountable classifications, however, the Soviet classifications were one more layer of thought control in the all-encompassing totalitarian state, leading to the conclusion that it is not simply acknowledging bias which makes a classification responsible, but doing so in an open society where individuals are free to choose between systems of knowledge organization and to interrogate those with which they disagree.

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