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Gwen Ottinger

Text Box: Knowledge from the Margins: Keynote Speaker

“Facilitating Knowledge at the Margins: Epistemic Justice and Participatory Technoscience”

“Epistemic injustice” occurs when people are not respected as knowers because of their marginalized identity, according to philosopher Miranda Fricker.  In struggles for environmental justice (EJ), epistemic injustices are rife: grassroots activists’ attempts to contribute local knowledge to public hearings are often disregarded because they are “hysterical housewives” or non-English speakers.  But aside from this “testimonial injustice,” EJ activists face a more intractable problem of “hermeneutic injustice”; that is, the available, technoscientific frameworks for understanding environmental risk and exposure don’t offer adequate resources for making sense of and communicating about the environmental health impacts that most concern EJ communities. In this presentation, I will discuss how citizen science is helping to address epistemic injustices in communities heavily burdened by pollution.  While techniques such as popular epidemiology and “bucket brigades” have been relatively successful at getting decision-makers to take activists’ knowledge claims more seriously—that is, in correcting testimonial injustices—I argue that they have been more limited in their ability to put forth alternative frameworks for making meaning of EJ communities’ experiences of pollution.  I will end by discussing how a new project to collaboratively design tools for interactive visualization for real-time air quality data could help build hermeneutic resources for the EJ movement.