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Doing epistemic (in)justice to Semenya

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Abstract:

In August 2009, Caster Semenya won the women's 800 m event at the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in Berlin. This victory became a global news story not because Semenya was a newcomer to athletics who had outperformed an established field but because of the fact that before the race she had been asked to undergo tests to determine whether or not she was a woman. This article uses a hermeneutics of suspicion to argue that the controversy surrounding Semenya was based on a set of assumptions that, although incorrect, drew on hegemonic understandings of sex and gender that dominate the discourse of sport, and were adopted by the media without question. As a consequence, Semenya became the victim of what Miranda Fricker has termed epistemic injustice a condition that arises when individuals or experiences are marginalized as a result of the absence of concepts and language that would enable us to articulate reality differently.

Keywords: BBC; DSD; athletics; gender verification; intersex; sex testing; sport

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/mcp.6.3.311_1

Affiliations: University of Stirling, Scotland, UK.

Publication date: 2011-02-01

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  • The International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics is committed to analyzing the politics of communication(s) and cultural processes. It addresses cultural politics in their local, international and global dimensions, recognizing equally the importance of issues defined by their specific cultural geography and those that traverse cultures and nations.
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