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Chapter 1 sets the scene for contemporary slave narratives, including comparisons to historic slave narratives. The chapter argues that a failure to look at the lessons of the past in the gathering and representation of narratives has limited the capacity for narratives to be employed effectively today. In this chapter, it is argued that different approaches to interview methods and narrative representation are an important step in reconfiguring the way narratives are gathered for the purposes of abolition and survivor growth. The chapter explores the means by which contemporary narratives are gathered and presented, the roles and responsibilities of the interviewer and listener, and examine present challenges to the credibility of survivor accounts. It moves on to explore the power that narratives have for survivors and the value of adopting interview methods that enable rich testimony, to inform policy, and which allow for the intellectual and emotional growth of survivors.
Since the 1990s, modern slavery has been recognized as a global problem, with campaigners around the world providing assessments of its nature and extent, its drivers, and possible solutions for ending it. However, largely absent from the global antislavery movement's discourse and policy prescriptions are the voices of survivors of slavery themselves. Survivors' authentic voices are underemployed vital tools in the fight against modern slavery in all its forms. Through close readings of over 200 contemporary slave narratives, Andrea Nicholson repositions the history of the genre and exposes the conditions and consequences of slavery, and the challenges survivors face in liberation. Far from the trope of 'capture, enslavement, escape,' she argues that narratives are rich and vitally important sources that enable the antislavery community to be gain important insights and build more effective interventions.
Medicolegal experts often struggled to discern whether a suspicious death was caused by poisoning or natural causes, particularly during cholera epidemics, and faced difficulties in detecting traces of poison in cadavers. Changing understandings of the absorption of poisons in the body and the advent of new techniques, including the Marsh apparatus test, presented possibilities for demonstrative evidence of poisoning and revealed the dangers of flawed forensic expertise. Some doctors, scientists, jurists, writers, and other commentators issued warnings about the high sensitivity of the Marsh test, the possibility of numerous sources of contamination, and the problem of incompetent practitioners operating beyond the bounds of their knowledge and training. Nonetheless, the prevalence and nature of poisonings shifted over the course of the nineteenth century, largely in response to the evolution of scientific knowledge. However, public battles over the state of scientific and medical knowledge in poisoning trials raised concerns that the very means by which forensic doctors sought to establish their authority might undermine it.
Motivating reforms to address discrimination and exclusion is important. But what epistemic practices characterize better or worse ways of doing this? Recently, the phenomena of implicit biases have played a large role in motivating reforms. We argue that this strategy risks perpetuating two kinds of epistemic oppression: the vindication dynamic and contributory injustice. We offer positive proposals for avoiding these forms of epistemic oppression when confronting racism.
The House of Slaves at Gorée Island was listed as a World Heritage site in 1978, one year before Auschwitz concentration camp. This chapter examines the process of heritagization of the House of Slaves as one of the African sites for the commemoration of the slave trade. Adopting Michael Rothberg’s perspective on multidirectional memory, it demonstrates how the project of the House of Slaves was indebted to the recognition of the Holocaust as a global trauma: the commemoration of the slave trade is in several ways entangled with the commemoration of the Holocaust. But from Senegal’s independence onwards, the House of Slaves was also inflected by a vision of Negritude. The first curator of the House of Slaves, Joseph Ndiaye, gave it a global significance through his performances as ‘witness’ to the slave trade. By giving testimony, Joseph Ndiaye claimed an epistemic space for the articulation of Blackness. He simultaneously introduced the figure of the witness to the genre of the memorial museum and reclaimed the African legacy of orality against the Occidental epistemology of history. As embodiment of a legacy of the project for human rights, Joseph Ndiaye also claimed this museum as an African project of emancipation.
Chapter 4 concentrates on a trauma narrative, Winter Birds (1994) by Jim Grimsley, relating the childhood of a young child named Daniel Crell in a household marked by violence, alcoholism and sexual abuse on the part of a maimed father. The testimony of the protagonist (who is also the narrator) is carried out by the second-person pronoun that, combined with other linguistic elements, serves as a coping mechanism throughout the narration. Drawing from socio-cognitive theories and cognitive stylistics (and in particular Text World Theory), it shows how Grimsley’s narrative does not confine itself to inform us about the author’s own traumatic experience through Dan but makes readers enact it through an embodied style performing the character’s vulnerability rather than describing it.
Moral injury names how the lived experience of armed conflict can damage an individual's ethical foundations, often with serious consequences. While the term has gained increasing acceptance for the clinical treatment of veterans and as a means of better understanding the impact of war, it is generally applied to individualized trauma. As part of the roundtable, “Moral Injury, Trauma, and War,” this essay argues that moral injury is also a useful means of addressing political violence at a societal level. It explores the term's value within international human rights discourse and practice, particularly in efforts to document and analyze the systematic commission of atrocities to achieve accountability and reconciliation. The essay presents field research among Iraqi human rights investigators as a means of reflecting on the value of rediscovering agency in the aftermath of societal trauma. In this way, moral injury provides guidance on the essential ethical qualities of the lived experience of violent repression, an issue central to a more complete understanding of international affairs.
The early conceptualization of Hugo Münsterberg in1908 laid the foundation for understanding different types of false confession, but tangible theoretical developments, assessment methodology of cases of disputed confessions, and empirical evidence base did not emerge until the 1980s. The gradual emergence of the science of false confession began with real life cases of disputed confessions in the 1970s and 1980s and the lessons that the cases taught scientists and expert witnesses interested in false confessions and psychological vulnerabilities. Theoretical developments led to better understanding of different types of false confessions. The psychological evaluation of real-life cases raised pertinent research questions, led to the development of innovative methodology and validated psychometric tests, and the collection of evolving empirical databases relevant to the evaluation of new cases. There is now a substantial evidence base for the science of false confession. This chapter explains its origin, development, and challenges.
This article highlights three epistemic practices, which, taken together, create conditions that worsen the problem of ‘bisexual erasure.’ Though bisexual people constitute a significant portion of the larger LGBTQ+ community, their identities and experiences and routinely erased — in queer communities and broader society alike. This article argues that we have both an epistemic and a moral obligation to attend to the epistemic conditions created for bisexual people, and to work to make those conditions more just. Specifically, I highlight the detrimental influence of testimonial injustice, testimonial smothering, and epistemic microaggressions on bisexual people's ability to challenge and resist their own erasure.
Chapter 6 examines the legal concept of evidence and the key dimensions of relevance, strength and reliability. I argue that a purely probabilistic conception of evidence is insufficient and present a causal perspective on evidence. The causal approach provides a unified framework to capture the interrelations between hypotheses and evidence and helps us to assess probabilistic relevance and strength. This perspective lays the foundation for a principled approach to modelling legal cases, which I develop in Chapter 10.
Although research on epistemic injustice has focused on the effects of prejudice in epistemic exchanges, the account of prejudice that emerges in Fricker's (2007) view is not completely clear. In particular, I claim that the epistemic role of prejudice in the structure of testimonial justification is still in need of a satisfactory explanation. What special epistemic power does prejudice exercise that prevents the speaker's words from constituting evidence for the hearer's belief? By clarifying this point, it will be possible to address two more general issues concerning the nature of prejudice: its resistance to counterevidence and the steps involved in overcoming prejudice. I propose a hinge account of prejudice, based on the recent perspective of hinge epistemology, to help clarify these aspects. According to the hinge account, prejudices share a fundamental feature with hinges: they work as norms of evidential significance, and as such, they determine what can and cannot count as evidence for belief.
This chapter offers reflections on how to create a sense of belonging for the stateless that keeps them in our purview as historical agents who can determine their actions and meaning. Whereas the legal definition of statelessness remains a key category, the chapter examines the experiential implications of statelessness, understanding these as a form of unbelonging. The rupture of displacement has cut the ties to community and place requiring that we look at the complex process by which refugee communities acquire cohesion through the repetition of their common story of displacement, as anthropologist Michel Agier has shown. Expanding the temporality of the stateless, this chapter seeks to link a deeper sense of history to a future trajectory where a form of belonging discovered through history can shape momentum for the resolution of statelessness in the future. Taking the works of poet Peter Balakian as its key example, the chapter focuses on the impact of the Armenian Genocide on future generations, and how the specifics of this history of mass violence and displacement can move us toward a recognition of the crisis in our contemporary moment.
This chapter argues that reading doesn't reduce to attending to testimony (given the accounts of testimony offered by C. A. J. Coady, Robert Audi, Elizabeth Fricker, and Jennifer Lackey) nor to visual perception (not to Fred Dretske’s simple seeing, nor to Thomas Reid’s acquired perception, nor to Dretske’s primary and secondary epistemic seeing). This paves the way for considering reading as a source of knowledge in its own right.
Why is reading never thought of as a source of knowledge? This chapter analyzes, first, what it is for something to be a source of knowledge and, second, by what kind of principles acknowledged sources of knowledge have been individuated. It is shown that epistemologists have used five kinds of principles, and it is argued that reading can be individuated by means of some of those principles.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir, Guantánamo Diary, demonstrates the potential of testimonial memoir as a global genre to introduce new voices and geopolitical contexts into world literature. It is exemplary for showing how older traditions of testimony are being refashioned in an era of human rights, global English and memoir, to create new variations adapted to the contemporary world. At the same time, recognizing the material, linguistic and rhetorical conditions that have facilitated the publication and reception of Guantánamo Diary, and that have catapulted it to the New York Times bestseller list, should prompt questions about the limits that shape the form and reception of testimonial memoir today. In this chapter, I place Guantánamo Diary in a tradition of literary testimony including Holocaust testimony and Latin American testimonio, identifying resonances with these precursors. Through a close reading, I argue that Slahi’s distinctive style is characterized by opposing tendencies. On the one hand, his narrative is transnationally haunted by a global canon circulating through it, with sounds of Kakfa, Primo Levi, slave narrative and Mauritanian folktales. On the other hand, his English is miniaturized and Americanized. These tensions shadow a tension in the field of world literature. While some critics insist on studying literature in its original language, the linguistic, rhetorical and material conditions that propel a text such as Guantánamo Diary to the bestseller list suggest the ways in which ‘global English’ is naturalised as the language of world literature and of global testimony.
Reading and textual interpretation are ordinary human activities, performed inside as well as outside academia, but precisely how they function as unique sources of knowledge is not well understood. In this book, René van Woudenberg explores the nature of reading and how it is distinct from perception and (attending to) testimony, which are two widely acknowledged knowledge sources. After distinguishing seven accounts of interpretation, van Woudenberg discusses the question of whether all reading inevitably involves interpretation, and shows that although reading and interpretation often go together, they are distinct activities. He goes on to argue that both reading and interpretation can be paths to realistically conceived truth, and explains the conditions under which we are justified in believing that they do indeed lead us to the truth. Along the way, he offers clear and novel analyses of reading, meaning, interpretation, and interpretative knowledge.
The existence of experts raises a host of interesting questions in social, legal, and political epistemology. This article introduces and discusses interested experts – people who are experts on some topic, but who also have a distinct set of values and preferences regarding that topic, so that they are not well-described as “disinterested” parties. Interested experts raise several distinct problems in social, legal, and political epistemology. Some general questions arise: can we rationally or justifiably form beliefs relying on interested expert testimony? Do they constitute knowledge? Under what circumstances? This article focuses on a specific question in legal epistemology: should interested experts be allowed to serve on juries and, if so, should it be permissible for lawyers to strike them from the pool of potential jurors? My hope is that concentrating on this question will provide insight into the more general questions concerning the epistemology of testimony with respect to interested experts, while also providing concrete recommendations for jury reform to improve the epistemic performance of juries.
A commitment to truth requires that you are open to receiving new evidence, even if that evidence contradicts your current beliefs. You should be open to changing your mind. However, this truism gives rise to the paradox of empathy. The paradox arises with the possibility of mental corruption through transformative change, and has consequences for how we should understand tolerance, disagreement, and the ability to have an open mind. I close with a discussion of how understanding this paradox provides a new explanation for a certain kind of standoff between the believer and the skeptic with regard to religious belief.
Chapters 4 and 5 explore how various subject positions (or what Foucault describes as enunciative modalities) influenced how knowledge was produced within the archive, from which perspective records were constructed and, ultimately, what was to be archived. In Chapter 4, ‘Contesting the Archive’, I focus on the witnesses, who played a far more significant role in constructing the archive than scholars normally credit. Whilst this shows how legal actors constrained what witnesses could record within the archive, it also demonstrates how witnesses were able to contest these parameters both in terms of which crimes would be recorded, but also how the law was to account for violence. This contestation also destabilised many of the objects and subjects that the legal discourse tried to produce, such as what constituted a victim or perpetrator.
Chapter 6, ‘Imagining a Community’, brings together, and builds on, the findings made throughout the book about the nature of the international community imagined within the archive. This shows that whilst the tribunal functioned as a site of liberal international governance, that underneath this liberal vision sat a distinctly illiberal understanding of community. In particular this shows that the archive divided the international community into the international, as a site of peace and order, and the local, as a site of barbarity; protected a space wherein violence was a legitimate aspect of international relations; and projected a patriarchal and colonial vision of community as the voice of the subaltern was denied.