Epistemic injustice is injustice related to knowledge. It includes exclusion and silencing; systematic distortion or misrepresentation of one's meanings or contributions; undervaluing of one's status or standing in communicative practices; unfair distinctions in authority; and unwarranted distrust.[1]

An influential recent theory of epistemic injustice is that of British philosopher Miranda Fricker, who coined the term.[2] According to Fricker, there are two kinds of epistemic injustice: testimonial injustice and hermeneutical injustice.[3]

Related concepts include epistemic oppression and epistemic violence.

Origins edit

Though the term epistemic injustice was not coined until 1999, prior philosophers have posited similar concepts.

Vivian May has argued that civil rights activist Anna Julia Cooper in the 1890s anticipated the concept in claiming that Black women are denied full and equal recognition as knowers.[4]

Gaile Pohlhaus Jr. points to Gayatri Chakrovorty Spivak's 1988 essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?" as another anticipation. In that essay, Spivak describes what she calls epistemic violence occurring when subaltern persons are prevented from speaking for themselves about their own interests because of others claiming to know what those interests are.[5]

Testimonial injustice edit

Testimonial injustice is unfairness related to trusting someone's word. An injustice of this kind can occur when someone is ignored, or not believed, because of their sex, sexuality, gender presentation, race, disability, or, broadly, because of their identity.[3]

Miranda Fricker gives the example of Londoner Duwayne Brooks, who saw his friend Stephen Lawrence murdered.[6] The police officers who arrived at the scene regarded Brooks with suspicion. According to an official inquiry, "the officers failed to concentrate upon Mr. Brooks and to follow up energetically the information which he gave them. Nobody suggested that he should accompany them in searches of the area, although he knew where the assailants had last been seen. Nobody appears properly to have tried to calm him, or to accept that what he said was true."[7] That is, the police officers failed to view Brooks as a credible witness, presumably in part due to racial bias. This was, says Fricker, a case of testimonial injustice, which occurs when "prejudice causes a hearer to give a deflated level of credibility to a speaker’s word."[8]

Hermeneutical injustice edit

Hermeneutical injustice is injustice caused by people being unable to make sense of certain experiences in their life, owing to a lack of hermeneutical/interpretive resources required to make sense of the experience. (The word hermeneutical comes from the Greek word for 'interpreter'.)[citation needed]

Hermeneutical injustice occurs when someone's experiences are not well understood — by themselves or by others — because these experiences do not fit any concepts known to them (or known to others), due to the historic exclusion of some groups of people from activities, such as scholarship and journalism, that shape the language people use to make sense of their experiences.[3]

For example, in the 1970s, the phrase sexual harassment was introduced to describe something that many people, especially women, had long experienced.[9] Before this time, a woman experiencing sexual harassment may have had difficulty putting her experience into words. Fricker states that this difficulty is also not accidental, and was largely due to women's exclusion from shaping the English language and participating equally in journalism, publishing, academia, law, and the other institutions and industries that help people make sense of their lives.[citation needed] After the term sexual harassment was introduced, the same woman who experienced sexual harassment may have understood better what happened to her; however, she may have struggled to explain this experience to someone else, because the concept of sexual harassment was not yet well known. [citation needed]

Fricker argues that some women's lives are less intelligible – to themselves, and/or to others – because women have historically wielded less power to shape the categories through which people understand the world. [citation needed]

Epistemological violence edit

Epistemological violence is distinct from epistemic injustice in that it usually occurs in the power structure of academic research, such as when interpreting empirical results in psychology. Epistemological violence is theoretical interpretations of empirical results that construct a targeted group as inferior, despite alternative and equally viable interpretations of the data.[10]

For example, Dr. Monique Danielle Botha argues that academic studies of Theory of Mind in autistic children constitutes epistemological violence, due to foundational studies explicitly or implicitly drawing universal conclusions about the entire group of autistic people.[11]

Further developments edit

Other scholars since Fricker have adapted the concept of epistemic injustice and/or expanded what the term includes. These contributions have included naming and narrowing down forms of epistemic injustice, such as epistemic oppression,[12] epistemicide,[13] epistemic exploitation,[14] silencing as testimonial quieting and as testimonial smothering,[15] contributory injustice,[16] distributive epistemic injustice,[17] epistemic trust injustice,[18] and expressive hermeneutical injustice.[19]

José Medina has advocated for an account of epistemic injustice that incorporates more voices and pays attention to context and the relationships at play.[20] Elizabeth S. Anderson has argued that attention should be given to the structural causes and structural remedies of epistemic injustice.[21] A closely related literature on epistemologies of ignorance has also been developing, which has included the identification of overlapping concepts such as white ignorance[22][23] and willful hermeneutical ignorance.[24]

American philosopher Kristie Dotson has warned that some definitions could leave out important contributions to the ongoing discussion around epistemic injustice.[16] Gaile Pohlhaus Jr. has replied that the concept should therefore be considered an open one, and many different approaches to the concept should be considered.[2]

In 2017, the Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice was published, compiling chapters addressing both the theoretical work on the concept and efforts to apply that theory to practical case studies.[25] The Indian political theorist Rajeev Bhargava uses the term epistemic injustice to describe how colonized groups were wronged when colonizing powers replaced, or negatively impacted, the concepts and categories that colonized groups used to understand themselves and the world.[26] Similarly, in 2021, Professor Dr. Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni mentions the term epistemicide and the Cognitive Empire[27] to describe the discrimination of scholars and intellectuals from the Global South by Western academia and in the sphere of decolonisation studies. In 2021 as well, Bhakuni & Abimbola's application of the concept of pose (or the positionality of the speaker) and gaze (the influence of the audience being addressed)[28] as important modifiers of the both credibility deficit (that is, credibility deficit may apply to a person's pose or their role as gaze) and hermeneutical marginalization (that is, a person may be marginalized in relation to their pose as a speaker or to the gaze/audience to whom they have to address themself).[29]

A policy analysis indicated that the World Health Organization definition of neglected tropical disease reflects a form of epistemic injustice, where conditions like snakebite are forced to be framed as a medical condition, resulting in lack of focus on prevention.[30]

Genocide denial has been considered an example of epistemic injustice.[31][32][33]

See also edit

Selected philosophers and theorists edit

References edit

  1. ^ Kidd, Ian James, José Medina, Gaile Pohlhaus Jr., eds. The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice (1st ed.). Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781315212043. ISBN 978-1-138-82825-4. p. 1. "Epistemic injustice refers to those forms of unfair treatment that relate to issues of knowledge, understanding, and participation in communicative practices. These issues include a wide range of topics concerning wrongful treatment and unjust structures in meaning-making and knowledge producing practices, such as the following: exclusion and silencing; invisibility and inaudibility (or distorted presence or representation); having one’s meanings or contributions systematically distorted, misheard, or misrepresented; having diminished status or standing in communicative practices; unfair differentials in authority and/or epistemic agency; being unfairly distrusted; receiving no or minimal uptake; being coopted or instrumentalized; being marginalized as a result of dysfunctional dynamics; etc."
  2. ^ a b Pohlhaus Jr., Gaile (2017). "Varieties of Epistemic Injustice". In Kidd, Ian James; Medina, José; Pohlhaus Jr., Gaile (eds.). Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice. Routledge. pp. 13–26. doi:10.4324/9781315212043. ISBN 978-1-138-82825-4.
  3. ^ a b c Fricker, Miranda (2007). Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-19-823790-7. OCLC 729949179.
  4. ^ May, Vivian M. (2013-10-11). ""Speaking into the Void"? Intersectionality Critiques and Epistemic Backlash". Hypatia. 29 (1): 94–112. doi:10.1111/hypa.12060. S2CID 145513018.
  5. ^ Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty (1988), "Can the Subaltern Speak?", Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, Macmillan Education UK, pp. 271–313, doi:10.1007/978-1-349-19059-1_20, ISBN 978-0-333-46276-8
  6. ^ Fricker, Miranda (2014). "Epistemic Equality?". YouTube. University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.
  7. ^ "Opinions of the Lords of Appeal for Judgement in the Cause: Brooks (FC) (Respondent) v. Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis (Appellant) and others" (PDF).
  8. ^ Auerback, Raymond (2021-08-08). "Just How Testimonial, Epistemic, Or Correctable Is Testimonial Injustice?". International Journal of Philosophical Studies. 29 (4): 559–576. doi:10.1080/09672559.2021.1997394. hdl:10871/128037. ISSN 0967-2559.
  9. ^ Blakemore, Erin (January 8, 2018). "Until 1975, 'Sexual Harassment' Was the Menace With No Name". history.com. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  10. ^ Teo, Thomas "What is Epistemological Violence in the Empirical Social Sciences?". Social & Personality Psychology Compass 4.5 (2010) 295-303 doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00265.x. "Yet, if an empirical difference is interpreted as inferiority or problematizes the Other, whether this theorizing has epistemological or practical consequences, one should speak of a form of violence that is produced in ‘knowledge.’ In these cases, interpretations of data (and not data!) turn into epistemological violence. Epistemological violence is a practice that is executed in empirical articles and books in psychology, when theoretical interpretations regarding empirical results implicitly or explicitly construct the Other as inferior or problematic, despite the fact that alternative interpretations, equally viable based on the data, are available. Interpretations of inferiority, or problematizations (see Teo, 2004), are never determined by empirical results; yet, they have a negative impact on the Other. Thus, interpretations are the actions of a subject against an object that one must label as violent. The epistemological part in this concept suggests that these theoretical interpretations are framed as knowledge about the Other when in reality they are interpretations regarding data. The term violence denotes that this ‘knowledge’ has a negative impact on the Other or that the theoretical interpretations are produced to the detriment of the Other. "
  11. ^ M Botha. "Autistic community connectedness as a buffer against the effects of minority stress." (2020) "I will argue that literature regarding “theory of mind” has constituted EV. Researchers, based on one experiment, with a small sample of autistic children (20) (mean chronological age = 11, estimated verbal ability age = 5), argued that autistic individuals lacked “theory of mind”, which is to say, they lacked the ability to infer their own and others minds, that this was a universal effect and unique to autism (Baron-Cohen, Leslie, & Frith, 1985). Four autistic participants (20%) passed the experiment, demonstrating theory of mind, sixteen did not, yet it was claimed to be a universal effect which was unique to autism. It was hypothesised instead that the kids who passed may not “really” be autistic, instead of theory of mind having limits in its ability to explain autism. The available evidence has never been that it was universal (autistic children who passed the test were deemed to be outliers and an exception to rule, despite making up between 20-25% of the sample completing the task, reliably (Baron-Cohen, Leslie, & Frith, 1985; Yirmiya et al., 1998)."
  12. ^ Dotson, Kristie (2014). "Conceptualizing Epistemic Oppression". Social Epistemology. 28 (2): 115–138. doi:10.1080/02691728.2013.782585. S2CID 144330822.
  13. ^ Santos, Boaventura de Sousa (2015-11-16). Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide. New York: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781315634876. ISBN 978-1-315-63487-6.
  14. ^ Berenstain, Nora (2016). "Epistemic Exploitation". Ergo, an Open Access Journal of Philosophy. 3 (20200916). doi:10.3998/ergo.12405314.0003.022.
  15. ^ Dotson, Kristie (2011). "Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing" (PDF). Hypatia. 26 (2): 236–257. doi:10.1111/j.1527-2001.2011.01177.x. S2CID 144313735.
  16. ^ a b Dotson, Kristie (2012). "A Cautionary Tale: On Limiting Epistemic Oppression". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. 33: 24. doi:10.5250/fronjwomestud.33.1.0024. S2CID 142869935.
  17. ^ Coady, David (2010). "Two Concepts of Epistemic Injustice". Episteme. 7 (2): 101–113. doi:10.3366/E1742360010000845. S2CID 145332158.
  18. ^ Grasswick, Heidi (2017). "Epistemic Injustice in Science". In Kidd, Ian James; Medina, José; Pohlhaus Jr., Gaile (eds.). Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice. Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781315212043. ISBN 978-1-138-82825-4.
  19. ^ Catala, Amandine; Faucher, Luc; Poirier, Pierre (2021-05-11). "Autism, epistemic injustice, and epistemic disablement: a relational account of epistemic agency". Synthese. 199 (3–4): 9013–9039. doi:10.1007/s11229-021-03192-7. ISSN 0039-7857. S2CID 236566456.
  20. ^ Medina, José (2012). "Hermeneutical Injustice and Polyphonic Contextualism: Social Silences and Shared Hermeneutical Responsibilities". Social Epistemology. 26 (2): 201–220. doi:10.1080/02691728.2011.652214. S2CID 16890075.
  21. ^ Anderson, Elizabeth (2012). "Epistemic Justice as a Virtue of Social Institutions". Social Epistemology. 26 (2): 163–173. doi:10.1080/02691728.2011.652211. S2CID 145350986.
  22. ^ Mills, Charles (2007). "White Ignorance" (PDF). In Sullivan, Shannon; Tuana, Nancy (eds.). Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance. Philosophy and Race Series. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. pp. 13–38. ISBN 978-0-7914-7101-2.
  23. ^ Mills, Charles (2017). "Ideology". In Kidd, Ian James; Medina, José; Pohlhaus Jr., Gaile (eds.). Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice. Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781315212043. ISBN 978-1-138-82825-4.
  24. ^ Pohlhaus, Gaile (2012). "Relational Knowing and Epistemic Injustice: Toward a Theory of Willful Hermeneutical Ignorance". Hypatia. 27 (4): 715–735. doi:10.1111/j.1527-2001.2011.01222.x. S2CID 143723579.
  25. ^ Kidd, Ian James; Medina, José; Pohlhaus Jr., Gaile, eds. (2017). Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice. Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781315212043. ISBN 978-1-138-82825-4.
  26. ^ Bhargava, Rajeev (2013). "Overcoming the Epistemic Injustice of Colonialism". Global Policy. 4 (4): 413–417. doi:10.1111/1758-5899.12093.
  27. ^ Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Sabelo J. (2021-05-04). "The cognitive empire, politics of knowledge and African intellectual productions: reflections on struggles for epistemic freedom and resurgence of decolonisation in the twenty-first century". Third World Quarterly. 42 (5): 882–901. doi:10.1080/01436597.2020.1775487. ISSN 0143-6597. S2CID 225573395.
  28. ^ Abimbola, Seye (October 2019). "The foreign gaze: authorship in academic global health". BMJ Global Health. 4 (5): e002068. doi:10.1136/bmjgh-2019-002068. ISSN 2059-7908. PMC 6830280. PMID 31750005.
  29. ^ Bhakuni, Himani; Abimbola, Seye (October 2021). "Epistemic injustice in academic global health". The Lancet Global Health. 9 (10): e1465–e1470. doi:10.1016/S2214-109X(21)00301-6. PMID 34384536.
  30. ^ Bhaumik, Soumyadeep; Zwi, Anthony B.; Norton, Robyn; Jagnoor, Jagnoor (2023-08-01). "How and why snakebite became a global health priority: a policy analysis". BMJ Global Health. 8 (8): e011923. doi:10.1136/bmjgh-2023-011923. ISSN 2059-7908. PMC 10445399. PMID 37604596.
  31. ^ Altanian, Melanie (2019). "Genocide Denialism as an Intergenerational Injustice". In Cottier, Thomas; Lalani, Shaheeza; Siziba, Clarence (eds.). Intergenerational Equity: Environmental and Cultural Concerns. Brill. pp. 151–162. ISBN 978-90-04-38800-0.
  32. ^ Altanian, Melanie (2021-03-04). "Genocide Denial as Testimonial Oppression". Social Epistemology. 35 (2): 133–146. doi:10.1080/02691728.2020.1839810. ISSN 0269-1728. S2CID 229073471.
  33. ^ Oranlı, Imge (2021). "Epistemic Injustice from Afar : Rethinking the Denial of Armenian Genocide". Social Epistemology. 35 (2): 120–132. doi:10.1080/02691728.2020.1839593. S2CID 229463301.

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