Archives, Epistemic Injustice and Knowing the Past

TitleArchives, Epistemic Injustice and Knowing the Past
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsLandström, Karl
JournalEthics and Social Welfare
AbstractIn this essay, I argue that the destruction or hiding of archives can cause long-lasting epistemic harms and constitute complex ethical challenges. The case of Kenya’s ‘migrated archives’ is argued to be an example of how actions in the past can have long-lasting epistemic consequences and can cause contemporary epistemic injustices and harms related to one’s knowledge of the past. The perpetrators of such harms and injustices are argued to have a backward-looking epistemic responsibility and to be liable to make epistemic amends. The practice of acknowledgement is suggested as one possible way to make effective epistemic amends. I argue that making effective epistemic amends would constitute a step towards addressing epistemic harms and injustices related to our knowledge of the past. However, it is important to remember that this would only constitute one out of many necessary steps in addressing epistemic injustice and that further individual, institutional and ideological changes are necessary.