Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation (Campus Access Only)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Deborah Tollefsen

Committee Member

Bill Lawson

Committee Member

Thomas Nenon

Committee Member

Luvell Anderson


Persons who speak from and about matters related to their marginalized identities often suffer profound testimonial injustices, significantly owing to a lack of epistemic authority. Yet it is also true that persons who speak with certain forms of identity and social power often enjoy undue levels of epistemic authority. In this way, testimonial injustices involve deficiencies and excesses. Such exchanges are shaped by political arrangements, cultural traditions, and linguistic practices. They are also informed by personal habit, lived experience, and individual temper. The confluence of these factors contributes to the development of epistemic dispositions of sensitivity and insensitivity. These epistemic postures can be more or less virtuous or vicious. So being a responsible knower requires the development of epistemic virtue amid the realities of epistemic vice. In a context of racial domination and injustice like the United States, I argue that racialized epistemic injustice is the consequence of institutional and individual character, of accrued habits and processes of formation. With thinkers like Charles Mills, Miranda Fricker, and José Medina in mind, this dissertation argues that critical openness (as characterized by the virtues of humility, diligence, and open-mindedness) softens the influence of epistemic injustices, thus positioning listeners to more aptly—and hence, more justly—interpret the testimonies of speakers. But critical openness requires sensitivity to who a speaker is – of where he or she might be speaking from. And getting clear on this question demands some accounting of the posture and location of the listener’s own stance – of where he or she might be listening from. Virtuous listening therefore calls for self and social consciousness. I argue this will be painfully hard to achieve, given the recalcitrance of injustice and the difficulty of virtuous habituation under non-ideal conditions. Pursuing such work, I argue, requires aptly marshaled epistemic deference. Ralph Ellison was right to think that such an achievement would call for a traveling (and transformation) of minds, bodies, and hearts, alongside the reordering (and reimagining) of political arrangements and institutions.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.