Indigenous Peoples, Anthropology, and the Legacy of Epistemic Injustice

Authored by: Rebecca Tsosie

The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice

Print publication date:  April  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138828254
eBook ISBN: 9781315212043
Adobe ISBN: 9781351814508

10.4324/9781315212043.ch34

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Abstract

Of all the Western academic disciplines, anthropology has had the most enduring impact on the lives of Indigenous peoples, framing them in various 19th and 20th century texts as the cultural ‘Other’ according to their allegedly ‘primitive’ character. 2 This cultural construction was based on an earlier philosophical lexicography that developed the trope of ‘civilization’ as a mode to justify rights to land, resources, and human labor within the colonial empires claimed by the European monarchs. 3 The cultural constructions of the past continue to inform Western law and policy and are profoundly linked to both testimonial and hermeneutical forms of epistemic injustice. Although the more overt racism of the past has been carefully sanitized from contemporary usage, the theoretical framework of epistemic injustice provides a powerful new mechanism to understand the historic wrongs, as well as the contemporary harms that Indigenous peoples continue to experience. In addition, the theory of epistemic injustice can enhance the dynamic interaction between law and ethics that is currently reshaping the social context of work within anthropology and archaeology. 4

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