Institut für Philosophie


Genocide Denial as an Epistemic Injustice

Inspired by writings of contemporary (feminist) epistemology and more particularly by Miranda Fricker's (2007) novel idea of “epistemic injustice”, my project aims at identifying the ethical-cum-epistemological implications of certain practices of genocide denialism: those wrongfully undermining the credibility and intelligibility of members of the victim group. Genocide denialism will thus be investigated under the normative framework of epistemic injustice, with a particular focus on denialist discourses within the realms of science and politics.

An epistemic injustice is intrinsically ethically bad, because it wrongfully undermines a subject specifically in his or her capacity as a knower and therefore in a capacity of essential human value. Those subjected to an epistemic injustice are not only experiencing a primary harm in terms of humiliation, but they may also experience secondary harms in terms of legal, economic and political injustices. Further, epistemic injustice has consequences for society, the foundations of the polity and its institutions.

The project is a contribution to hitherto philosophically unexplored terrain, not only enriching the ongoing debate about epistemic injustice and its various applications with a further and highly relevant case study, but also deepening the philosophical understanding of concepts like genocide, memory, truth, identity, dignity, and their interrelation. The project thereby mirrors new developments in the philosophical field in general that can be put under the paradigm of “applied ethics”, and more particularly, “applied epistemology” (Coady 2012; Coady and Fricker 2017):

In line with the idea that persons need appropriate concepts in order to render intelligible their experiences of injustice to others and themselves, so that they can ‘become who they are’, this project will shed light on particular dysfunctional epistemic practices within the context of genocide denialism and thus identify and name another source of social injustice.

Coady, David (2012). What to Believe Now: Applying Epistemology to Contemporary Issues. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Coady, David and Fricker, Miranda (2017). Introduction to Special Issue on Applied Epistemology. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 34(2), pp. 153-156.

Fricker, Miranda (2007). Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.