By John Clarke
An extended version of this post was originally published in Discover Society on 4 October 2017.
The continuing controversies about the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire point to real conflicts about how we – the public – are supposed to know about such matters. At the heart of these controversies is a crisis of knowledge in which different ways of knowing (and their social and political implications) are in dispute: who gets to ask the questions and what questions get asked? What information should be included, what knowledge is considered valid and invalid, and who gets to make those judgements? Bundled up in these arguments are problems about the relationship between evidence, expertise and experience, as survivors and nearby residents demand a form of inquiry that is responsive to their needs and concerns. The problem is that public inquiries are rarely designed in such terms: rather they aim to be evidence-based, legal in approach and formally authoritative. This classic public inquiry model seeks to impose a cool and dispassionate gaze on the horrors of Grenfell. Continue reading A matter of public knowledge? Inquiring into the Grenfell Tower disaster