Epistemic Injustice in Asylum Policy and Practice


Megan Blomfield (University of Sheffield); m.blomfield@sheffield.ac.uk

Sanjana Govindarajan (University of Groningen); s.govindarajan@rug.nl

Kerri Woods (University of Leeds); K.Woods@leeds.ac.uk


*All times are British Summer Time (BST)

September 7th

Session 1: Asylum narratives and truth-telling

13:00 – 14:30

“Truth-Telling and Testimonial Injustice in Asylum Cases” – Katherine Puddifoot (Durham University) and Clara Sandelind (University of Manchester)

“Epistemic injustice in the UK asylum regime” – Arianne Shahvisi (Brighton & Sussex Medical School)


Session 2: Asylum narratives and the attitudes of hearers

14:45 – 16:15

“Epistemic Injustice and the Problem of Traumatic Testimony” – Sanjana Govindarajan (University of Groningen)

“Presumption of Dishonesty: A Distinct Type of Testimonial Injustice that Harms Asylum Seekers” – Seunghyun Song & Tamara van den Berg (KU Leuven)


September 8th

Session 3: Epistemic injustice in asylum practices

13:00 – 14:30

“Political Waiting as Epistemic Injustice and Beyond: The case of Asylum Seekers” – Charlotte Vyt (Université de Namur)

“Credibility and Epistemic Injustice in Greek Asylum Adjudications” – Elisabeth Kirtsoglou (Durham University)


Session 4: Epistemic injustice in asylum structures

14:45 – 16:15

“Structural Testimonial Injustice in the UK Asylum Claim Process” – Megan Blomfield, (University of Sheffield)

“Structured Unevenness: Knowing in Asylum” – Ezgi Sertler (Utah Valley University)


September 9th

Session 5: Epistemic injustice and social group membership

13:00 – 14:30

“Institutional Hermeneutic Ignorance and LGBTQ Asylum Claims” – Kerri Woods (University of Leeds)

“Asylum-seeking and Refugee Women: Epistemic Injustice, and the Effacement” – Gloria Zuccarelli (University of Milan)


Session 6: Underexplored issues

14:45 – 16:15

“Epistemic (In)justice and Asylum in the Global South: What can we hope for?” – Leonardo Barros da Silva Menezes (University of Minho)

“Listening to Refugees’ Voices: Testimonial Injustice in Academia and Politics” – Hilkje C. Hänel (University of Potsdam)


This workshop will examine forms of epistemic injustice in state asylum policy and practice. Existing policies for the granting of international protection render the processing of asylum claims one of the most important, challenging, and problematic spheres of decision-making in modern states. The costs and benefits at stake in asylum decisions endow them with grave moral significance: such decisions may result in an individual being offered valuable rights of protection, residence, support and (perhaps) eventual citizenship; or instead returned to risk of death, deprivation, or persecution. These are also decisions in which the
potential for injustice looms large. If the receiving state has a goal of limiting inward migration in general, or grants of asylum in particular, then those claiming asylum are confronted by a problem of conflicting aims in a context of severe inequality of power. Asylum decisions also tend to have a fundamental epistemic component, with judgments of the applicant’s credibility playing a vital role. Perceived ‘lack of credibility’ is a common reason for asylum claims to be rejected in the UK and elsewhere; and there is evidence to suggest that such judgments are often seriously flawed.

Epistemic injustice is a growing field of research, attracting considerable attention in applied philosophy in recent years. However, there is yet to be much work applying insights from this field to the study of refugee and asylum issues, which is itself a burgeoning ground of academic study as well as an important policy area. This workshop will address this gap, inviting contributions that apply insights from the field of epistemic injustice to illuminate problematic aspects of asylum policy and practice and the specific harms and injustices faced by asylum claimants. The intention is that these papers will also enlarge the field of epistemic injustice by examining the experiences of a group of people routinely affected by such injustice, that have hitherto been neglected by philosophers working in this field; showing that existing philosophical frameworks may have to be expanded or adjusted in order to adequately account for the forms of epistemic injustice experienced by those claiming asylum.

Questions that papers may address include:

  • What forms of epistemic injustice do state asylum policies and practices perpetrate, enable, or realise?
  • How might asylum regimes be understood as epistemically unjust institutions?
  • Does testimony concerning trauma pose distinctive challenges to the pursuit of
    epistemic justice?
  • How do mechanisms of epistemic injustice impact specific groups in need of international protection, such as LGBTQ asylum claimants?
  • Are existing concepts of epistemic injustice adequate for capturing the epistemic wrongs of asylum policies and practices?

If you would like to present a paper at this workshop, please send an abstract of 300-500 words to epin.mancept@gmail.com, by 6pm UK time on Monday the 17th of May. We warmly welcome papers from those with any form of experience or expertise regarding the workshop topic. Please include your name and any affiliation. We will endeavour to inform you whether your paper has been accepted by the end of May.

Papers will be pre-circulated and everyone attending the workshop will be asked to read the whole set of papers in advance (anticipated to be approx. 8-12 papers). The deadline to submit full versions of the conference papers (maximum 10,000 words) will be August 20th.

Please note that all attendees will be expected to register (and pay a registration fee).

This year’s MANCEPT fees are:

Academics: £45
Graduate students, retirees, and unaffiliated attendees: £20
Non-speaker/non-presenting attendees: £15

MANCEPT offer a small number of fee waiver bursaries. The deadline for bursary applications (available to current graduate students only) will be the 15th of June, and successful applicants will be informed by the 22nd June. Details here: https://mancept.wordpress.com/mancept-workshops-2021/
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at: epin.mancept@gmail.com