The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppression, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imaginations

The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppression, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imaginations

The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppression, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imaginations

The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppression, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imaginations

Synopsis

This book explores the epistemic side of oppression, focusing on racial and sexual oppression and their interconnections. It elucidates how social insensitivities and imposed silences prevent members of different groups from interacting epistemically in fruitful ways-from listening to each other, learning from each other, and mutually enriching each other's perspectives. Medina's epistemology of resistance offers a contextualist theory of our complicity with epistemic injustices and a social connection model of shared responsibility for improving epistemic conditions of participation in social practices. Through the articulation of a new interactionism and polyphonic contextualism, the book develops a sustained argument about the role of the imagination in mediating social perceptions and interactions. It concludes that only through the cultivation of practices of resistance can we develop a social imagination that can help us become sensitive to the suffering of excluded and stigmatized subjects. Drawing on Feminist Standpoint Theory and Critical Race Theory, this book makes contributions to social epistemology and to recent discussions of testimonial and hermeneutical injustice, epistemic responsibility, counter-performativity, and solidarity in the fight against racism and sexism.

Excerpt

Insensitivity is the key theme of this book. As I understand it, insensitivity involves being cognitively and affectively numbed to the lives of others: being inattentive to and unconcerned by their experiences, problems, and aspirations; and being unable to connect with them and to understand their speech and action. This kind of insensitivity is at the core of the epistemic injustices I will discuss. Although I favor the terms insensitivity and numbness because they have both cognitive and affective connotations and because they are broad enough to cover different aspects of our epistemic life, the literature I engage with typically refers to epistemic deficiencies of this sort in perceptual terms and, more specifically, in visual terms: in terms of blindness. Although I have tried to use the term insensitivity and other related expressions whenever possible, avoiding the visual metaphor and the term blindness has not always been possible or advisable for various reasons. In the first place, I draw on classic authors (such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Franz Fanon) and contemporary ones (such as Linda Alcoff and Charles Mills) who talk about insensitivity (especially racial insensitivity) in terms of blindness. I could have only mentioned “blindness” (in quotes) without using the term, but there are specific notions of racial blindness that I wanted to modify or broaden (for example, by introducing the notion of meta-blindness). I did not want to break the continuity of my own discourse with those bodies of literature, classic and contemporary. In the second place, there are particular issues and ideologies that appear in relation to racial and sexual oppression that are difficult to discuss without using the term blindness and the visual paradigm, because these issues and ideologies are already formulated in those terms—especially important in this respect is “color-blindness.” In the third place, the use of the metaphor of sight and blindness to deal with issues of social sensitivity and insensitivity is also pervasive in different literary traditions—think, for example and especially, of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and José Saramago’s Blindness (which have inspired some insights and arguments in this book). The book contains only brief discussions of literary treatments of insensitivity, but they set the tone and the rhetoric of the phenomenon as I approach it. And finally, in the fourth place, ordinary language is plagued with visual . . .

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