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Epistemic injustice and the division of deliberative labour

James Wong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Thu 19 July 2018

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


The recent literature of deliberative democracy conceives the division of deliberative labour between experts and citizens in various ways. In this paper, we argue that (1) citizens can suffer epistemic injustice in deliberation when their knowledge claims are dismissed, ignored or deemed unintelligible by experts; and (2) the division of deliberative labour can be appropriately arranged to remedy any epistemic injustice. Discussed extensively by Miranda Fricker (2007), the problem of epistemic injustice – consisting of testimonial and hermeneutic injustices – is relevant to speeches and communications but remains largely overlooked in deliberative democracy. We consider three competing models of expertise in a deliberative system, i.e., Thomas Christiano’s (2012) specialized deliberation, Alfred Moore’s (2016) distributed deliberation, and Simone Chambers’s (2017) feedback loops. We show that the division of deliberative labour based on all these three models is, to different extents, vulnerable to the problem of epistemic injustice. We suggest that some specially-designed ‘mini-publics’ – in the form of an enhanced version of public hearings/inquiries – would be desirable institutions that alleviate epistemic injustice in a deliberative system.

About the speaker

James Wong is a research assistant professor in the Division of Social Science and the Division of Public Policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is also a junior fellow in the HKUST Jockey Club Institute for Advanced Study. His research revolves around deliberative democracy, environmental politics, and institutional design for democracy. He earned his PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2013.

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