Trauma and the Credibility Economy: An Analysis of Epistemic Violence and its Traumatic Functions

Gina Stinnett, Illinois State University

Imported from ProQuest Stinnett_ilstu_0092N_11275.pdf


In this thesis, I argue that the work done in philosophy on epistemic injustice can put pressure on the assumptions driving the work of both trauma theory and rhetorical theory. In addition to arguing how epistemic injustice can reinforce trauma, I argue that epistemic injustice has its own power to traumatize. I refer to this as “epistemic trauma,” or a trauma to one’s ability to know their experience and to make a claim based on this knowledge. Research on epistemic injustice states that when one encounters repeated epistemic injustice, they become less likely to share their experiences at all—they fall into a coerced self-silencing. In the context of trauma, epistemic injustice can take away one’s ability to make sense of their traumatic experience. If they cannot “know” their experience, they cannot speak it. I will differentiate among physical trauma, psychological trauma, and epistemic trauma, which I believe all function in different ways—sometimes in the same traumatic experience. If physical trauma is the literal trauma to one’s body, and psychological trauma is the damage to one’s psyche as a result of this trauma, then epistemic trauma would be the damage to one’s sense that they are able to know and make sense of their experiences, and make a claim based on this experience.