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Hermeneutical Injustice and the Social Sciences: Development Policy and Positional Objectivity

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In Epistemic injustice, Miranda Fricker employs the critical concept of hermeneutical injustice. Such injustice entails unequal participation in the epistemic practices of a community that often results in an inability of dominated subjects to understand their own experiences and have them understood by their community. I argue that hermeneutical injustice can be an aspect of institutions as well communites—to the extent that they too engage in epistemic practices that seek to understand the problems and experiences of their constituents. My primary example is the case of development theory and international development agencies where human beings were objectified in undesirable ways by the prevailing neoliberal economic theories that guided development practice. Here economic theory and the power to achieve its vision of unconstrained economic growth were combined in various organizations. Consequently such organizations systematically misunderstood the problems of the very people they were supposed to help. I argue that if hermeneutical injustice can be the result of the intersection of science and organizations, we need to create more participatory ways of gleaning information about social ills to alleviate institutionally mediated hermeneutical injustice.
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Keywords: Development Theory; Epistemic Injustice; Institutions; Miranda Fricker; Social Science

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 April 2012

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