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- Epistemologies of Criminalization : Tracking Epistemic Oppression in the Lives of Black Girl Survivors
- Spencer, Ayanna De'Vante
- Electronic Theses & Dissertations
ABSTRACTEPISTEMOLOGIES OF CRIMINALIZATION: TRACKING EPISTEMIC OPPRESSION IN THE LIVES OF BLACK GIRL SURVIVORS ByAyanna De’Vante SpencerWorking with Girls for Gender Equity, the ‘metoo’ movement, and the Firecracker Foundation, I learned from youth Black girl organizers and survivors and adult advocates and allies that the state primarily offers Black girl survivors ankle monitors and parole officers over healing resources and pathways to recovery. I came to suspect that there is a problematic...
Show moreABSTRACTEPISTEMOLOGIES OF CRIMINALIZATION: TRACKING EPISTEMIC OPPRESSION IN THE LIVES OF BLACK GIRL SURVIVORS ByAyanna De’Vante SpencerWorking with Girls for Gender Equity, the ‘metoo’ movement, and the Firecracker Foundation, I learned from youth Black girl organizers and survivors and adult advocates and allies that the state primarily offers Black girl survivors ankle monitors and parole officers over healing resources and pathways to recovery. I came to suspect that there is a problematic intersection between criminalization, how Black girls are expected to respond to violence, and how the state determines what survivors know about their own experience(s) of violence. The problem is not merely whether people in powerful positions believe Black girl survivors, but the convergence of socio-political and epistemic power to deny what survivors know about their own experiences of violence and power to punish survivors for acting on “contested” knowledge. Criminalized Black girl survivors in the US navigate an oppressive landscape of violence that goes beyond state agents not believing Black girl survivors. This is the focus of this dissertation.While criminalized Black girl survivors in the US face social and political disempowerment, they also face epistemological disempowerment through state-sanctioned non-accidental epistemic burdens. A non-accidental epistemic burden is a burden to strengthen one’s epistemic position in relation to some proposition, p, despite having an adequate (or better) epistemic position in relation to some p. As the US criminal injustice system requires survivors overcome state-sanctioned non-accidental epistemic burdens to claim self-defense, criminalized Black girl survivors are epistemically oppressed by a persistent and irregular epistemic burden to prove what they know about their own experiences of sexual violence. I explicate this argument in five chapters. In chapter one, I claim that pragmatic encroachment is a non-neutral knowledge attribution problem whereby attributors are empowered to affirm or deny a subject’s knowledge claim on the basis of the subject’s constructed practical stakes, or constructed pragmatic encroachment (CPE). Constructed practical stakes, here, refers to the potential costs/consequences of acting on knowledge of some p for some subject, ‘S,’ constructed by their practical environment. In chapter two, I critique standard pragmatic encroachment as a methodologically flawed theory in order to illuminate real-world pragmatic encroachment as a disparate epistemological problem for survivors. In chapter three, I explain that a settler colonial obfuscation of Black girl survivorhood exists such that Black girl survivors navigate a criminalizing metaphysical and socio-epistemic quagmire. I claim that punitive attributors leverage a historical construction of Black girl survivors as “fast-tailed swindlers” to override self-defense as “knowing criminal intent.” Next, I explicate an argument for third-person CPE as epistemic oppression in chapter four to bring home the main argument of this dissertation. Criminalized Black girl survivors face epistemic oppression in the US criminal injustice system in the form of state-sanctioned non-accidental epistemic burdens. This chapter extends the insights of chapter three to underscore that survivors are non-neutrally criminalized and burdened to overcome an insatiable criminal injustice system designed to maintain settler power, not healing or justice for survivors of sexual violence. I conclude with considerations for possible objections to the project and implications of the project. Ultimately, I aim to support radical Black feminist futures for survivors free from power struggles for belief, safety, and resources.