The Harms of the Internalized Oppression Worry

Journal of Social Philosophy (forthcoming)
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In this paper, we locate a general rhetorical strategy employed in theoretical discourse wherein philosophers argue from the mere existence of internalized oppression to some kind of epistemic, moral, political, or cognitive deficiency of oppressed people. We argue that this strategy has harmful consequences for oppressed people, breaking down our analysis in terms of individual and structural harms within both epistemic and moral domains. These harms include attempting to undermine the self-trust of oppressed people, reinforcing unjust epistemic power hierarchies, undermining the moral agency of oppressed people, and obscuring real issues of oppression. In light of these many harms, we conclude that there are pro tanto reasons not to employ this strategy, and instead offer a series of suggestions for those considering adopting such a rhetorical move.

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Author Profiles

Madeline Ward
Western New England University
Nicole Dular
Notre Dame of Maryland University

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