Prejudice influences people’s thoughts and behaviors in many ways; it can lead people to underestimate others’ credibility, to read anger or hysteria into their words, or to expect knowledge and truth to ‘sound’ a certain way—or to come from a certain type of person. These biases and mistakes can have a big effect on everything from an institutional culture to an individual’s self-understanding. These kinds of intellectual harms are known as epistemic injustice.
Most people are opposed to unfair prejudices (at least in principle), and no one wants to make avoidable mistakes. But research in the social sciences reveals a disturbing truth: Even people who intend to be fair-minded and unprejudiced are influenced by unconscious biases and stereotypes. We may sincerely want to be epistemically just, but we frequently fail, and simply thinking harder about it will not fix the problem.
The essays collected in this volume draw from cutting-edge social science research and detailed case studies, to suggest how we can better tackle our unconscious reactions and institutional biases, to help ameliorate epistemic injustice. The volume concludes with an afterward by Miranda Fricker, who catalyzed recent scholarship on epistemic injustice, reflecting on these new lines of research and potential future directions to explore.
Introduction Ben Sherman / Part I: Managing Psychological Tendencies / 1. Negative Epistemic Exemplars Emily Sullivan and Mark Alfano / 2. Positive Stereotypes: Unexpected Allies or Devil’s Bargain? Stacey Goguen / 3. Conceptualizing Consent: Hermeneutical Injustice and Epistemic Resources Audrey Yap / 4. Structural Thinking and Epistemic Injustice Nadya Vasilyeva and Saray Ayala-López / 5. The Inevitability of Aiming for Virtue Alex Madva / 6. Can Epistemic Virtues Help Combat Epistemologies of Ignorance? Emily McWilliams / Part II: Curing Epistemic Injustice in Healthcare / 7. Epistemic Microaggressions and Epistemic Injustices in Clinical Medicine Lauren Freeman and Heather Stewart / 8. Returning to the “There Is”: PTSD, Phenomenology, and Systems of Knowing MaryCatherine McDonald / 9. Pathocentric Epistemic Injustice and Conceptions of Health Ian Kidd and Havi Carel / 10. Uncovering Prejudice and Where It Lives: Stereotype Mapping in Professional Domains Elianna Fetterolf / 11. Epistemic Injustice in Careers: Insights from a Study with Women Surgeons Katrina Hutchison / Part III: Arresting Epistemic Injustice in the Legal and Correctional Systems / 12. The Episteme, Epistemic injustice, and the Limits of White Sensibility Lissa Skitolsky / 13. Carceral Medicine and Prison Abolition: Trust and Truth-telling in Correctional Healthcare Andrea J. Pitts / 14. Epistemic Injustice and Medical Neglect in Ontario Jails: The Case of Pregnant Women Harry Critchley / Part IV: Learning to Overcome Epistemic Injustice in Academia, Education, and Sports / 15. Teaching as Epistemic Care Casey Rebecca Johnson / 16. When Testimony Isn’t Enough: Implicit Bias Research as Epistemic Exclusion Lacey J. Davidson / 17. Gaslighting as Epistemic Violence: “Allies,” Mobbing, and Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Including a Case Study of Harassment of Transgender Women in Sport Rachel McKinnon /
19. Afterword Miranda Fricker / Index / About the Contributors
Benjamin R. Sherman is a visiting research scholar at Brandeis University, specializing in ethics, epistemology, and the overlap between the two fields.
Stacey Goguen is an Assistant Professor of philosophy at Northeastern Illinois University, specializing in feminist philosophy, philosophy of science, and social epistemology.
Building on Miranda Fricker’s term “epistemic injustice,” Sherman (Brandeis Univ.) and Goguen (Northeastern Illinois Univ.) have collected a variety of scholarly writings dealing with specific epistemic injustices. The editors note that although a great deal of scholarship has already been devoted to analyses of epistemic injustice, their contribution has a unique interdisciplinary focus charging scholars to bring together their “ethical and epistemic arguments” using “empirical work and case studies.” The resulting volume is an intriguing and thought-provoking collection of articles on a variety of subjects including psychological tendencies, healthcare injustices, legal and correctional injustices, and injustices in academia. This collection would be most appropriate for a complete course involving justice issues, though for courses offering only one or two modules dealing with social justice, it also offers unique readings focused on how “we can do better.” The readings will elicit important conversations with students based on empirical data rather than problematic media information. It also contains interesting case studies with which students can wrestle.
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals.
Overcoming Epistemic Injustice is a unique and valuable contribution. It brings philosophical questions to bear on how to combat epistemic injustice, and how to do so in specific contexts: in healthcare, the legal and correctional systems, education and academia, and sports. Daring, empirically-grounded, and solutions-oriented, it is a model for scholarship in pursuit of justice.
One of the most pressing issues for addressing the complex intersections between oppression and forms of epistemic injustice is how such forms of injustice can be effectively resisted and ultimately overcome. Overcoming Epistemic Injustice augments current research by focusing on case studies of institutional structures that perpetuate epistemic harms. From medical and mental health institutions to the criminal justice system to the academy to implicit bias research, the authors of this distinctive collection offer insights regarding complex circulations of power and knowledge that provide resources for challenging such structures.