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Epistemic Oppression and Epistemic Activism

José Medina, Whitney J. Oates Visiting Fellows in the Humanities Council and the Department of Philosophy, Northwestern University

September 22, 2021 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm EDT · Zoom

Humanities Council; Department of Philosophy

José Medina (Northwestern University), a Short-Term Visiting Fellow in the Humanities Council and Department of Philosophy, will provide an analysis of epistemic oppression as a systemic, group phenomenon in which members of oppressed groups are unfairly constrained or mistreated in the exercise of their agency in meaning-making and knowledge-producing practices. I argue that epistemic oppression happens at two levels simultaneously: at the level of social interaction and at the level of institutions. I further argue that resisting epistemic oppression calls for what I term epistemic activism, that is, resistant collective epistemic action aimed at changing both group dynamics and institutional arrangements. Though an analysis of the epistemic activist interventions of grassroot organizations, I show how epistemic activism can work toward the epistemic liberation of oppressed groups in two ways: (1) through the self-empowerment of marginalized voices and perspectives; and (2) through the establishment of social practices and institutional arrangements that can facilitate the exercise of epistemic agency under conditions of oppression.

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