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Title page for ETD etd-07202016-155228

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Skene-Björkman, Sandra Diane
Author's Email Address sandra.d.skene@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-07202016-155228
Title Epistemic Injustice and the Problem Of Novelty: Identifying New Tools with Audre Lorde and Hannah Arendt
Degree PhD
Department Philosophy
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
José Medina Committee Chair
Barabara Hahn Committee Member
Lisa Guenther Committee Member
Lucius T. Outlaw, Jr. Committee Member
  • Knowledge
  • Novelty
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Audre Lorde
  • epistemic injustice
  • Understanding
  • Epistemology
Date of Defense 2016-05-23
Availability unrestricted
Drawing on the work of Audre Lorde and Hannah Arendt, I offer an account of the problem of epistemic injustice that focuses on the contributions of hermeneutically marginalized epistemic agents. Taking Miranda Fricker’s influential account of the problem of epistemic injustice as an example, I argue that current work on the problem suffers from an over-emphasis on the ethico-epistemic practices of the perpetrators of the harm. My revised account of epistemic injustice explores the complex nature of the relationship between the two forms of epistemic injustice identified by Fricker: Testimonial Injustice – which relates to knowledge-production and knowledge conveying-practices; and Hermeneutical Injustice – which relates to storytelling and other meaning-making practices.

I argue that Fricker’s monological account of the problem, within which there is only one group social imaginary from which to draw hermeneutical and testimonial resources, leaves epistemic agents with very few resources for making new meanings or conveying new knowledges. In order to access a multiplicity of social imaginaries, within which novel knowledges and ways of making meaning already exist, one must engage with others whose social imaginary differs significantly enough from hers at the level of 1) storytelling, or meaning-making practices, or 2) knowledge-production / knowledge-conveying practices.

In outlining my alternative approach to the problem of epistemic injustice, I first break down the six-steps involved in arriving at reflective ethico-epistemic judgments, which are capable of overcoming the prejudicial ethico-epistemic assessments that lead to testimonial and hermeneutical injustices. I then re-cast the problem as a failure of imagination, remembrance, and pluralism, and finally review the ways in which Lorde’s and Arendt’s approaches to ethico-epistemic injustice offer remedies to these particular failures, beginning with the pluralism found in everyday epistemic exchanges. For Lorde this begins with identifying a plurality of knowledges and knowledge-conveying practices, and for Arendt this begins with identifying a plurality of meaning-making practices. The faculties of imagination and remembrance are key to overcoming the problem of epistemic injustice, but they can only be rehabilitated through engagement with a plurality of significantly different others drawing on social imaginaries significantly different than one’s own.

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