SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The Three Axes of Epistemic Injustice in the Testimony of Sexual Violence and Rape Culture Victims
(Epistemology, English)

In 1997, a group of nine Mexican men went public with accusations that they had been abused as children and youngsters by Marcial Maciel, the founding leader of the catholic congregation Legion of Christ, while studying under him in Spain and Rome in the 1940s and 1950s. The group lodged formal charges at the Vatican in 1998 and published an open public letter in which they claimed being ''doubly victimized'' both for the sexual abuse, committed by Maciel, and for the discredit of their testimony by the Vatican authorities. I focus on a Mexican case of moral injustice related to the testimony of the victims of sexual violence and the rape culture in which they develop. Based on such a case, the particular aim of this research is to bring together knowledge and justice.
From a philosophical approach, victims of several forms of sexual violence often face epistemic obstacles at three stages: when they try to ''speak out'' about the alleged experience, when they render testimony to the legal authorities, and when they are trying to make intelligible to themselves, and others, the experience of violence itself. Such obstacles are instances of epistemic injustice and are conceptually understood as examples of silencing, testimonial injustice and hermeneutical injustice, respectively. Thanks to the groundbreaking work of Lorraine Code, Rae Langton, Miranda Fricker, Kristie Dotson, Jos Medina, Gaile Pohlhaus and Ian James Kidd we now understand the phenomena of epistemic injustice as the wrong to someone in their capacity as a knower. My research shows that the instances of epistemic injustice in the sexual violence victims' testimony, due to rape culture, are framed into three axes. Those three axes are: structural oppression, social and epistemic position (or location) of the victims, and the unjust distribution of credibility in the testimonial exchange. The testimonies of Maciel's victims exhibits this frame and let us understand how structural processes, like oppression and social positionality, has epistemological consequences. Nevertheless, my proposal also intent to point out, as the result of the epistemological study of the Maciel's victims' testimony, the confluence aspects to which philosophy can respond proactively towards social justice issues.
That's why I suggest that one way to eradicate instances of epistemic injustice based on rape culture and sexual violence testimony consists in our understanding of testimonial exchange from an epistemic injustice framing to a new epistemic justice framework based on three principles: epistemic empowerment, fair distribution of credibility, and epistemic empathy. This new framework of epistemic justice would allow us to protect the knowledge of sexual violence victims and to establish epistemic justice as a right of its own. The framework of epistemic justice proposed cannot work by itself. Epistemic justice frameworks must incorporate aspects of the C.A.R.E. (Communication, Accountability, Respect and Empathy) culture to testimony. C.A.R.E. have been used in young activism to identify manifestations of violence within specific communities and to empower agents through the creation of their own epistemic resources to fight against the inequalities faced by the members of under privileged groups -- such as women and children.
The presented paper can be seen as a proposal within Feminist epistemology which seeks to make a contribution in the achievement of social justice by denouncing and eradicating cases of epistemic injustice such as the Maciel victims testimony and others.

Chair: Robert Pal
Time: 11:20-11:50, 14 September 2018 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.004

Aurora Georgina Bustos Arellano 
(Autonomous National University of Mexico / Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico , Mexico)

Aurora Georgina Bustos Arellano is a graduate student from National Autonomous University of Mexico at Philosophy Graduate School. Her main philosophical interests are Feminist Epistemology, Analytic Epistemology, Epistemology of Testimony and topics related to epistemic injustice toward disadvantages groups, such women and children. She also works as philosophy high-school teacher and promotes SexEd and Teen Activism towards to eradicate any form of sexual violence and gender discrimination in classroom.

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