The research project “Theorizing Epistemic Violence” (V 368-G15) is funded within the framework of the Elise Richter Excellence Programme run by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). Project implementation started in April 2015 and will continue through January 2020. A main result of the project is the monograph titled Epistemische Gewalt. Zur Theorie von Wissen und Herrschaft in der kolonialen Moderne [Epistemic Violence. Theorizing Knowledge and Power in Colonial Modernity]. It was submitted as a postdoctoral/habilitation thesis at the University of Vienna in March 2019.
This research project grounded in political theory aims at tying together two strands of theorizing power/knowledge relations as viewed through the lens of the notion of epistemic violence. Broad concepts of violence from within the ‘Western’ canon, which have left their traces in political science (e.g. structural, symbolic, discursive violence), will be confronted with the critique of the constitutive coloniality of scholarly knowledge and its far-reaching effects offered by recent post- and decolonial theory.
Two research desiderata emerge at this node formed in light of my specific research interest. First, there is a lack of epistemological reflection in a wide range of ‘Western’ accounts of violence. Second, there are references missing to existing theories about violence within post- and decolonial research which basically deals with the preconditions, functions, and consequences of (scholarly) knowledge for globally asymmetric relations of power, dominance, and, ultimately, violence. Disposing of a theory of epistemic violence that takes into account the violent character of modernity itself will allow for links to be established between narrower understandings of political violence, on the one hand, and the Eurocentric traditions of globally dominant scientific and academic knowledge production, on the other.
The notion of ‘epistemic violence’ had already been used by Derrida and Foucault, when Spivak transposed it into postcolonial studies at the end of the 1980s in order to draw attention to the problematic and constitutive entanglements between colonial and imperial policies and scholarly knowledge production that have been shaping the world to this day – without being explicitly identified as such though. Even though the term has been present in post- and decolonial writings ever since, there is no systematic theory about epistemic violence available yet. This is a significant gap which I intend to fill with my theory-oriented basic research that is poised at the crossroads of political theory and sociology of knowledge, including post- and decolonial work from the humanities and cultural studies.