Methodological Explorations in Black Feminist Epistemology
K. Bailey Thomas, Tempest Henning

July 8, 2022, 1:00am - 3:00am
Association for Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies, Metaphysics and Science Studies



University of Waterloo

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This panel will introduce attendees to methodologies in Black feminist epistemology through two topics–epistemic gaslighting and resistant imaginations. The first paper, titled “Turning Down the Gaslighting Dial with Epistemic Closure”, will be given by Tempest M. Henning (Fisk University). This essay will focus on how Black feminist epistemology– aided with the closure principle–can address skeptics of racial microaggressions. Henning argues that these skeptics assert that claims of microaggressions are infallible and, therefore, should not be asserted. The result of this argument, Henning notes, is that these skeptics further claim that the concept of microaggressions themselves are a faulty tool. Skeptics base this argument on the assumption that racial microaggression lie in the eye of the beholder, which means that the accuser is always right, ie.–they are infallible. Henning believes that a Black feminist standpoint theory account of epistemic privilege coupled with the epistemic closure principle will clarify more of the racial microaggression skeptics objections.

The second paper, titled “Oppositional Knowledge and Knowing Otherwise: Black Feminist Constructions of Resistant Imaginations,” will be given by K. Bailey Thomas (Dartmouth College and University of Louisville). This paper discusses how Black feminist epistemology allows for the construction of “resistant imaginations” (as discussed by José Medina and Tamar Gendler) that aid Black people in epistemic resistance against harmful stereotypes and hegemonic ways of knowing embedded in oppressive epistemic structures. Thomas argues that while epistemic resistance itself is a useful concept, it alone does not fully aid Black individuals in resistance against the multiple-axis of oppression that they face, even from others in marginalized communities. Due to this, Thomas proposes that turning to Black feminist Patricia Hill Collins’ notion of “oppositional knowledge” allows for Black people to not just engage in epistemic resistance, but construct their own epistemic frameworks that allow for healthy and authentic knowing about themselves and others in their communities. Rather than just resist against epistemic oppression, oppositional knowledge pushes marginalized subjects to reject faulty epistemic structures and construct their own, which also validates them as knowers. the result of this project, Thomas proposes, it that Black people achieve what Audre Lorde describes as “knowing otherwise,” which is the ability to fully separate themselves from dominant ways of knowing and instead engage in knowledge production and exchange that is rooted in affirmation and validation as opposed to subjugation and oppression.

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July 7, 2022, 12:00pm EST

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