Epistemic Injustice in Law

Location am HIS | Beginn: 09.01.2025 09:00 Uhr



The workshop will take place at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, Thursday, January 09th 2025, and is organized by Francesca Barp (HIS) and Leonie Thies (Wolfson College, Oxford) in cooperation with Prof Tobias Eule (HIS / University of Bern) and Prof Linda Mulcahy (Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford).
If you are interested in participating, please submit your abstract (of no more than 500 words, for a presentation of about 20 minutes) to Francesca Barp (francesca.barp@his-online.de) by September 15, 2024. We intend to publish the outcomes in a special issue of an international journal. Therefore, we ask to apply only if the author/s can provide a paper around three months after the workshop. The HIS can assist with travel and accommodation costs. Childcare is available, if required.
Decisions on the acceptance or rejection of proposals will be announced by the end of October 2024.


While Fricker’s book on epistemic injustice is widely discussed in philosophy and has sparked a number of publications and two recent conferences in Germany on its’ connection to “marginalized knowledges and trust conflicts” (University of Frankfurt, June 2023) and to “recognition failures and Social Movements” (University of Potsdam, May 2023), its’ impact on socio-legal thought remains marginal. That is surprising, given that in the law “material but also immaterial battles of interpretation are fought out".ii But according to Fricker these battles go deeper – they hurt someone "in their capacity as a subject of knowledge and thus in a quality that is essential for the value of a person" (Fricker 2023, 28). The injustice towards someone as a knowing subject happens on two levels: In testimonial injustice, the speaker is "wronged if he or she is considered less credible than usual due to identity bias on the part of the listener" (ibid. 27). The second type of epistemic injustice, called hermeneutic injustice, describes the "consequence of a gap in collective hermeneutic resources (...). The social experiences of members of hermeneutically marginalized groups are insufficiently conceptualized and therefore not understood - perhaps even by those affected themselves.” (ibid. 30 f.) This concept hints at a situation in which ‘society’ has not yet agreed on terms and concepts to speak about an injustice, which makes it impossible to mobilize against it. We observe that in law, a third aspect that crosses both dimensions become relevant: the construction of experts and expert knowledge that strips those affected from speaking for themselves.
We want the workshop to be a space to reflect on one’s own data and look for epistemic hierarchies constructed in them. ‘Epistemic injustice’ and epistemic violence iii,iv can serve as a conceptual hinge for a vast range of complex empirical inquiries of legal practices and origins regarding e.g. credibility assessments, determining the safety of countries of origin, categorization of protest movements, the non/use of forensic and other scientific expertise etc. or the figure of an ‘objective third party’. These empirical insights will, conversely, help us critically reflect on and sharpen the conceptual debate. We want to explore how the concept of epistemic injustice can be used to analyze law-making and legal practice, but also socio-legal research itself. Possible (but not exhaustive) questions and directions to pursue in the panels are:

• Why is the concept so virulent? What are the shadows of the concept?
• How can testimonic injustice and credibility constructions be traced in the law?
• How do heuristic injustice as societal frames structure the law? How does heuristic injustice make legal claims im/possible or un/likely?
• How do institutional knowledge and dissident knowledge meet in the law? How are they treated by the legal system?
• How does the law produce knowledge? And how is knowledge about the law produced?
• How is normality constructed in/through the law and deviance punished?
• How is “epistemic injustice” different from intersectionality as concepts of injustice?
• What is the difference between ‘epistemic’ and ‘epistemological’ injustice?
• What connections can be made to debates around ‘decolonisation’ of knowledge?
• What kind of justice can be achieved through the mobilization of law?

Workshop der Forschungsgruppe Rechtssoziologie in Kooperation mit der Universität Bern und dem Center for Socio-Legal Studies der University of Oxford.


  1. Fricker, Miranda (2007) Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford University Press. German translation Suhrkamp, 2023.

  2. Fuchs, G. (2021) Rechtsmobilisierung. Ein Systematisierungsversuch. Zeitschrift für Rechtssoziologie, 41(1), 26.

  3. Dotson, Kristie (2011): Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing. In Hypatia 26 (2).

  4. Spivak, Gayatri. 1998. Can the subaltern speak? In Marxism and the interpretation of culture, ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.