Epistemic injustice as a framework for exploring young women’s experiences of the incarceration/education nexus

Year: 2021

Author: Owens, Emilie

Type of paper: Symposium

Incarcerated young women are a small minority within spaces dominated by males. They are barely visible within the youth detention system itself, and are almost entirely absent from the scholarly discourse. This paper explores the relevance of Miranda Fricker’s category of epistemic injustice as a conceptual framework for understanding educational inequality as it manifests in the lives of young women in custody. I begin by outlining Fricker’s accounts of testimonial and hermeneutical injustice as they apply to the educational experiences of incarcerated girls. I then turn to the work of Kristie Dotson to critique Fricker‘s assumption that there is a single set of epistemic resources on which we all rely. Dotson prefers the term ‘epistemic oppression’ to ‘epistemic injustice,’ and draws attention to the epistemic resources that marginalised knowers create within their own communities to resist domination and understand their world: a theoretical innovation that is particularly pertinent in Australia’s settler colonial context. I conclude by applying Dotson’s account of epistemic oppression to my own experiences as a teacher in the carceral space to illuminate the epistemically violent ways in which the education and carceral systems intersect in the lives of young women.