In theorizing the inevitable workings of power, inequity, and injustice, we rely on Fricker's (2007) work on epistemic injustice. Epistemic injustice not only refers to distributive unfairness in epistemic goods (e.g., information or education) but also theorizes it more fundamentally as a wrong done to someone specifically in their capacity as a knower of their own experience. When one's experience is discredited, it is not just a question of individual harm, but becomes fundamentally and structurally damaging to human existence, value, and worth, which is the fundamental ontological violation of social justice and human rights. Lakeman (2010) thus underlines epistemic injustice as the foundation of all other forms of injustice.
Applying epistemic in/justice to various social work fields, this symposium presents our critical analysis and interrogation of social work research and practice. The first presenter investigates (mis)representations of victims in the dominant anti-trafficking discourse, illustrates how social and epistemic injustice are perpetuated and legitimized in the dominant anti-sex-trafficking movement in the US, and discusses implications for social (justice) work. Conducting a critical narrative review of research that claims to capture the mental health experiences of youth, the second presenter critically explores research methods that examine how youth's own voices are dis/credited by academic research in mental health, and discusses the implications for youth mental health practice. The third presenter follows life stories of nine Indigenous youth missing and murdered in Northern Canada. She conducts a critical analysis of how the testimony of their families and communities were discredited and illustrates how their identity as Indigenous youth were hijacked from their own and re-constructed as 'neglectful and careless youth who led themselves into death or missing'in numerous police reports. The last presenter examines numerous barriers to addressing/broaching cross-cultural differences in everyday social work encounters in empirical studies on broaching and illustrates how not-broaching the very existence of cultural differences (i.e., color- and culture-blindness) pre-empts opportunities to build alliance and have further meaningful interactions in cross-cultural social work encounters. This presentation illustrates selected examples of fostering micro-skills in broaching to guide social work practitioners in cross-cultural social work practice.
Our symposium goal is to stimulate conversation that will promote a deeper understanding of epistemic injustice and brainstorm ways to foster epistemic justice in various social work practice and research platforms.