Categorized under social sciences, epistemic violence occurs due to a negative bias in the interpretation of information in empirical research. The interpretation of the data is done in such a manner that the other is exhibited as inferior or even as problematic. This is even in the case where the data presented allows for the liberal interpretation that expresses both alternatives as equally viable. These interpretations of the other as problematic or inferior are ones which give rise to a negative reflection of the other.
The argument that has so far been presented in class is that the concept of is much closer to personal violence than structural violence because it has a subject, object as well as an action.
It is without regard to the fact that the type of violence, in this case, is nonphysical, the perpetrator or the subject of the violence is the researcher; the object of the violence is the Other and the action is done to undertake the action involves the interpretation of the data presented by the researcher.
Epistemic violence has a lot to do with the process of othering which is, essentially, segregation or discrimination. Discrimination, in this case, can come in three major ways, ethnic, religious and cultural.
Pierre Bourdieu in the mid-20th century wrote about the concept of symbolic power and its existence in modern societies. He talked about how those in power had a way of imposing their visions on the social world and making these visions of theirs appear to be legitimate. From his theory emerged the concept of symbolic violence. As Bourdieu understood it, it was the ability to, “impose the means for comprehending and adapting to the social world by representing economic and political power in disguised, taken-for-granted forms” (Swartz 89) it established his belief that all the actions of the people in power have a specific function geared towards the oppression of those who are considered as others. It was simply a means to disguise their political and economic ends.
Epistemic violence stems from this concept of symbolic violence. Unlike symbolic violence that could have roots in disguising economic and political agenda, epistemic violence places a large focus on the practice of othering. Othering is the marginalization of other people with distinct differences from ‘us’. The most basic form of othering is discrimination.
It takes place primarily via the dehumanization of the other group. It often comes into play when the main group perceives that the outgroup is, in several ways, inferior to the other group. The perception of inferiority is both in essence as well as morality. Considering them in this light has the effect of creating the other group to be subhuman and, therefore, beyond the moral scope of consideration for the majority group. By doing this, the persons concerned are excluded from the scope of being human and are denied reciprocity and effectively stripped of their intellect. Epistemic violence on a discriminatory basis is among the most common forms of discrimination. It is easy to exercise as it has a clear base, the other. Frequently, discriminatory epistemic violence is used by politicians to acquire the support of the majority by promising to push for legislation that furthers the segregation of the other.
The second form of epistemic violence comes in testimonial epistemic violence. This occurs in two major ways, first is discrediting the person followed by silence. The credibility of the person is limited or erased via epistemic violence and this creates prejudice in the listener to discredit all the information that they are receiving from the other. This is despite any form of knowledge or credibility that the other might have (Fricker 20). To have successful linguistic information, a speaker needs to find reciprocity in their audience. The audience needs to understand the words of the speaker and understand the intentions of the speaker as well. Epistemic violence results in the listener assuming that the speaker is coming from a point wherein they lack the knowledge and therefore is not recognized as someone who knows anything. The final form is distributive epistemic violence which erupts as a result of other types of epistemic violence. The negative prejudices often spread harm to more materialistic aspects of the life of the other. Distributive epistemic violence, therefore, refers to the refusal of resources to the other group.