As part of my own development as a futures practitioner/scholar, I have felt it very necessary to map out and cultivate a deeper set of learning aspirations to guide me and to provide the foundation for my own scholarly work in this space.
I first became aware of the term “epistemic injustice” at a social work research conference a couple of years ago – from Drs. Bonnie Duran and Roberto Orellana. Their deep wisdom and sharing of information about Indigenous ways of knowing, about assaults towards (and even more troubling – attempts to eliminate) Indigenous ways of knowing, was extremely inspiring and has stayed with me. I have continued to gather, study and reflect on what role these frameworks have to play with futures thinking and practice.
Terms like “diversity,” “equity,” and “social justice” matter and increasing tools and focus promote progress in many ways across a variety of sectors. Increasing discourse focuses on “white supremacy culture” and these frameworks are helpful in combatting inequity. That said, at this moment – I’ve found these epistemic injustice concepts the most fruitful to my own work and thinking.
In its most simple terms, a central question is: Who gets to decide what the future is? Whose dreams, aspirations, preferences, values get prioritized? Who gets to forecast what comes next – and who gets heard? Is this happening with attention and dedication to equity?
While I’m still formulating how this all shakes out (specifically) for me as a social work futurist (more to come!), as is my practice, I’ve organized what I found in an evolving annotated bibliography on the topic of “epistemic injustice” and a related concept “epistemicide.” Both are extremely relevant, urgent and powerful ideas for any meaningful study of the future.
The “futures world” can (fortunately doesn’t always…) lean towards an innovation bias, a “new”-ness bias, and modern/neoliberal rhythms that can and often do, leave out many voices. While what is new is ever fascinating, it mustn’t obscure (or even more damaging – eliminate) the complex interpretations and ways of understanding what has been, what is and what comes next in the world. Epistemic injustice models deepen, complicate and strengthen social justice and equity frameworks, and as Afrofuturists, Chicano Futurists, Feminist Futurists, Queer Futurists and Indigenous Futurists (and others) are already demonstrating/practicing – diverse voices make for richer futures.
I hold these ideas with much reverence, gratitude and humility. Explore, enjoy and share. Let’s keep building a better world together.