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On Anger, Silence, and Epistemic Injustice

  • Alison Bailey (a1)
Abstract

If anger is the emotion of injustice, and if most injustices have prominent epistemic dimensions, then where is the anger in epistemic injustice? Despite the question my task is not to account for the lack of attention to anger in epistemic injustice discussions. Instead, I argue that a particular texture of transformative anger – a knowing resistant anger – offers marginalized knowers a powerful resource for countering epistemic injustice. I begin by making visible the anger that saturates the silences that epistemic injustices repeatedly manufacture and explain the obvious: silencing practices produce angry experiences. I focus on tone policing and tone vigilance to illustrate the relationship between silencing and angry knowledge management. Next, I use María Lugones's pluralist account of anger to bring out the epistemic dimensions of knowing resistant anger in a way that also calls attention to their histories and felt textures. The final section draws on feminist scholarship about the transformative power of angry knowledge to suggest how it might serve as a resource for resisting epistemic injustice.

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1 As Aristotle says, ‘anger is an appropriate response to perceived injustice’. Nicomachean Ethics V.8 1135b28–9.

2 Bailey, Alison, ‘The Unlevel Knowing Field: An Engagement with Dotson's Third-Order Epistemic Oppression.Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3.10 (2014), 6268 <http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1Gs>. ‘Epistemic twilight zones’ are undefined or intermediate conceptual areas where there are insufficient or inadequate epistemic resources. Here, epistemic resources are not shared as much as people think.

3 Kristie Dotson, in conversation. Dotson's claim is intentionally strong. Unpacking the ‘all’ is beyond the scope of this project. I ask readers to feel the weight of the all in Dotson's claim by considering how the epistemological dimensions of violence are integral to the process of dehumanization: Reducing knowing subjects to dehumanized subjects or objects (i.e. non-citizens, property, animals, savages, criminals, etc.) is the first step toward doing violence to them. Charles W. Mills makes a weaker claim: the historical production of the racial contract has prominent epistemic dimensions. See his The Racial Contract (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1997).

4 Bailey, ‘The Unlevel Knowing Field: An Engagement with Dotson's Third-Order Epistemic Oppression’, 63.

5 Dotson distinguishes between episodic, non-repetitive instances of silencing and deeper systemic and socially functional practices of silencing that concern ‘a repetitive reliable occurrence of an audience failing to meet the dependencies of a speaker that finds its origins in a more pervasive ignorance’. I focus on Dotson's repetitive reliable occurrences. See Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing’, Hypatia 26.2 (2011), 236–57.

6 Fricker, Miranda, Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 130.

7 ‘Epistemic objectification’ is Fricker's term. See, Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing, 133. The term ‘truncated subjects’ comes from Pohlhaus, Gaile Jr., ‘Discerning the Primary Epistemic Harm in Cases of Testimonial Injustice’, Social Epistemology 28.2 (2013), 99114.

8 Fricker, Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing, 133.

9 Dotson, ‘Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing’, 242–45.

10 McKinnon, Rachel, ‘Epistemic Injustice’, Philosophy Compass 11.8 (2016), 240.

11 Dotson, ‘Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing’, 244.

12 Lorde, Audre, ‘On the Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism’, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde (Trumansburg, New York: The Crossing Press, 1984), 124.

13 Frye, Marilyn, ‘A Note On Anger’, The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory (Trumansburg, New York: The Crossing Press, 1983) 8494.

14 Lyman, Peter, ‘The Politics of Anger: On Silence, Resentment, and Political Speech’, Socialist Review 11.3 (1984), 71–2.

15 Lorde, ‘On the Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism’, 125.

16 Cooper, Brittney, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2018), 167.

17 This is McKinnon's ‘epistemic injustice circle of hell’. See Allies Behaving Badly: Gaslighting as Epistemic Injustice’, The Routledge Handbook to Epistemic Injustice, eds. Kidd, Ian James, Medina, José, and Pohlhaus, Gaile Jr. (New York: Routledge, 2017), 169, and McKinnon's ‘Epistemic Injustice’, 240. See also, Ahmed, Sara, Living a Feminist Life (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2017), 38.

18 Roxane Gay, ‘Who Gets to Be Angry?’, The New York Times (10 Jun, 2016), <https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/opinion/sunday/who-gets-to-be-angry.html>.

19 Ahmed, Sara, The Promise of Happiness (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2010), 68.

20 Ahmed, The Promise of Happiness, 68.

21 DiAngelo, Robin, ‘White Fragility’, International Journal of Critical Pedagogy 3.3 (2011), 54.

22 Medina, José, The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppressions, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imaginations (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 91.

23 McKinnon, ‘Allies Behaving Badly: Gaslighting as Epistemic Injustice’, 167.

24 Saba Fatima, ‘Being Brown and Epistemic Insecurity’, Hypatia Conference, Villanova University, 29 May 2015. Also, On the Edge of Knowing: Microaggression and Epistemic Uncertainty as a Woman of Color’, in Cole, Kirsti and Hassel, Holly (eds.), Surviving Sexism in Academia: Feminist Strategies for Leadership (New York: Routledge, 2017), 147154.

25 Fatima treats this as testimonial smothering in ‘On the Edge of Knowing: Microaggression and Epistemic Uncertainty as a Woman of Color’.

26 Golden, Marita, Migrations of the Heart (New York: Anchor Books, 1983), 21. Cited in Collins, Patricia Hill, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1991), 97.

27 Lorde, ‘On the Uses of Anger’, 127.

28 Lugones, María, ‘Playfulness, “World” Traveling, and Loving Perception’, Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition against Multiple Oppressions (Lanham, Maryland: Roman and Littlefield Publishers, 2007), 85.

29 Lugones, ‘Playfulness, “World” Traveling, and Loving Perception’, 86.

30 Lugones, María, ‘Hard-to-Handle Anger’, Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition against Multiple Oppressions (Lanham, Maryland: Roman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2007), 103.

31 Lugones, ‘Playfulness, “World” Traveling, and Loving Perception’, 78.

32 To reduce both the conceptual clutter for those unfamiliar with Lugones's pluralism, and to focus on the textures of anger, I've substituted hard/heavy anger for first-order anger and hard/rebellious anger for second-order anger. First-order anger sees the oppressed reality and second-order anger resists.

33 Lugones, ‘Hard-to-Handle Anger’, 107.

34 Lugones, ‘Hard-to-Handle Anger’, 104.

35 Lugones, ‘Hard-to-Handle Anger’, 104–5.

36 Lorde, Audre, ‘Eye to Eye: Black Women, Hatred, and Anger,’ Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde (Trumansburg, New York: The Crossing Press, 1984), 145.

37 Coates, Ta-Nehisi, Between the World and Me (New York: Random House, 2015), 94.

38 Muñoz, José Estaban, ‘Feeling Brown: Ethnicity and Affect in Ricardo Bracho's The Sweetest Hangover (and other STDs)Theatre Journal 52 (2000), 70.

39 Lorde, ‘The Uses of Anger’, 127.

40 Ahmed, The Promise of Happiness, 175.

41 Lugones, ‘Hard-to-Handle Anger’, 103, 112.

42 Lorde, ‘The Uses of Anger’, 131.

43 Lorde, ‘The Uses of Anger’, 129.

44 Frye, ‘A Note On Anger’, 85.

45 McWeeney, Jen, ‘Liberating Anger, Embodying Knowledge: A Comparative Study of María Lugones and Zen Master HakuinHypatia 25.2 (2010), 295.

46 Consider how Fricker drains anger from her paradigm example of testimonial injustice. She selects the anger-free hotel room conversation between Marge and Herbert in The Talented Mr. Ripley rather than the water taxi conversation where Marge's clearly-focused anger is resistant and alive. Anger is also drained from the courtroom testimonial exchanges in her To Kill a Mockingbird examples, even though it's clear that Tom Robinson, a Black man, must swallow his anger to be heard, and that Mayella, a young white woman, uses anger to bolster her false rape charge against Tom.

47 Lorde, ‘Uses of Anger’, 130.

48 Jaggar, Alison, ‘Love and Knowledge: Emotion in Feminist Epistemology’, Inquiry 32.2 (1989), 167.

49 Lindy West, ‘Brave Enough to be Angry’, New York Times (11 Nov 2017), <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/08/opinion/anger-women-weinstein-assault.html>.

50 Medina, The Epistemology of Resistance, 45.

51 Lugones, ‘Hard-to-Handle Anger’, 107-8. See also Frye, ‘A Note On Anger’, 94.

52 Frye, ‘A Note On Anger’, 90.

53 For examples see Spillers, Hortense, ‘Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Book’, Diacritics, 17.2 (Summer, 1987), 6481; Scott, James C., Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990); María Lugones, Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes; Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought; José Medina, Epistemologies of Resistance.

54 Lorde, ‘Uses of Anger’, 127.

55 Doston, Kristie, ‘A Cautionary Tale: On Limiting Epistemic Oppression’, Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies 33.1 (2012), 24.

56 Pohlhaus, , ‘Relational Knowing and Epistemic Injustice: Toward a Theory of Willful Hermeneutical Ignorance’, Hypatia 27.4 (2012), 715.

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Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements
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