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Genocide Denial as an Epistemic Injustice

Applicant Altanian Melanie
Number 175317
Funding scheme Doc.CH (until 2020)
Research institution Institut für Philosophie Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.09.2017 - 29.02.2020
Approved amount 173'658.00
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Keywords (11)

Feminist Philosophy; Political Philosophy; Ethics; Critical Social Epistemology; Epistemic Injustice; Substantive Ignorance; Genocide Denial; Testimony; Collective Memory; Oppression; Armenian Genocide

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Genozidleugnung zielt darauf ab, die Wahrheit zu verschleiern und Erinnerung zu verhindern. Dadurch werden Opfer, Überlebende und ihre Nachfahren erneut diskriminiert und unterdrückt. Es ergeben sich dadurch aber auch wesentliche Nachteile für die post-genozidale Gesellschaft insgesamt.
Lay summary

Genozidleugnung ist ein Angriff auf die Wahrheit und Erinnerung, sowie eine Verletzung der Würde der Opfer und ihrer Nachfahren, so die gängige Überzeugung. Ziel des Projekts ist es, die Beziehung zwischen Menschenwürde, Erinnerung und Wahrheit im Kontext der systematischen Genozidleugnung genauer zu beleuchten. Auf Grundlage eines exemplarischen Falls, nämlich der türkischen Leugnung des Armeniergenozids, wird die Völkermordleugnung zunächst als substanzielle Erkenntnispraxis analysiert, welche eine verzerrte «Epistemologie des Nichtwissens» generiert. Anschliessend wird anhand der Theorie der epistemischen Ungerechtigkeit aufgezeigt, wie eine solche «Epistemologie des Nichtwissens» schädigend sein kann, indem sie Mitglieder der ehemaligen Opfergruppe epistemisch unterdrückt, sowie Nachteile für die post-genozidale Gesellschaft insgesamt mit sich bringt. Genauer kultiviert systematische Völkermordleugnung (moralisch)-epistemisches Fehlverhalten und verhindert oder erschwert gesellschaftliche Solidaritäts- und Vertrauensbeziehungen, was das gesellschaftliche Zusammenleben dauerhaft gefährdet.

Das Projekt bietet einen wichtigen Beitrag zur aktuellen Debatte der epistemischen Ungerechtigkeit durch die Diskussion eines neuen, hochaktuellen und relevanten Anwendungsbeispiels. Durch den Fokus auf Völkermordleugnung als spezifische dysfunktionale Erkenntnispraxis wird schliesslich eine weitere grundlegende Ursache für soziale Ungerechtigkeit identifiziert.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 14.07.2021

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Genocide Denialism as an Intergenerational Injustice
AltanianMelanie (2019), Genocide Denialism as an Intergenerational Injustice, in Siziba Clarence, Lalani Shaheeza, Cottier Thomas (ed.), BRILL, Nijhoff, 151-162.
Der Genozid an den ArmenierInnen: Beiträge zur wissenschaftlichen Aufarbeitung eines historischen Verbrechens gegen die Menschlichkeit
Altanian Melanie (ed.) (2018), Der Genozid an den ArmenierInnen: Beiträge zur wissenschaftlichen Aufarbeitung eines historischen Verbrechens gegen die Menschlichkeit, Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden.
Menschenwürdeverletzung der Nachfahren durch Genozidleugnung
Altanian Melanie (2018), Menschenwürdeverletzung der Nachfahren durch Genozidleugnung, in Altanian Melanie (ed.), Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden, 141-166.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Münchner Kompetenzzentrum Ethik, LMU München Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
Lehrstuhl für Praktische Philosophie und Ethik, LMU München Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Graduate School of the Humanities, Walter Benjamin Kolleg, Universität Bern Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
Right to Truth, Truth(s) Through Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Geneva, Sévane Garibian Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Workshop "Epistemic Injustice in the Aftermath of Collective Wrongdoing" Talk given at a conference Genocide Denial as Testimonial Oppression 06.12.2019 Universität Bern, Switzerland Altanian Melanie;
Doktorierendenworkshop "Social Identity/Identity Politics" mit Linda Martín Alcoff Talk given at a conference The Role of Social Identity in Genocide Denialism 04.10.2019 Universität Bern, Switzerland Altanian Melanie;
Workshop Morality's Underpinning Talk given at a conference Epistemic Oppression and Testimonial Injustice 19.03.2019 München, Germany Altanian Melanie;
Netzwerk-Tagung Society for Women in Philosophy Switzerland Poster Projektposter "Genocide Denial as an Epistemic Injustice" 23.11.2018 Bern, Switzerland Altanian Melanie;
Words That Kill Conference Talk given at a conference Genocide Denialism: Renewed Dehumanization and Epistemic Oppression 28.05.2018 American University of Paris, France Altanian Melanie;
Fourth International Graduate Student Conference on Holocaust and Genocide Studies Talk given at a conference Denying Genocide: Renewed Dehumanization and Rejection of Victims as Knowers 12.04.2018 Clark University, Worcester, United States of America Altanian Melanie;
Academic Freedom and Politics Talk given at a conference From Genocidal Collaboration to Relational Recognition: The Past and the Present of the Armenian Genocide (mit Dr. Jeanette Ehrmann) 08.12.2017 LMU München, Germany Altanian Melanie;


Self-organised

Title Date Place

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Talks/events/exhibitions Philosophie.ch Diskussionsabend zu "Genozid und Vergangenheitsbewältigung" German-speaking Switzerland 2020
Other activities THoR-CoLAB Projekt "Epistemic Injustice" Western Switzerland International Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 2019
Media relations: radio, television Interview zu Frauen in der Philosophie SRF Kultur Online German-speaking Switzerland 2018
Talks/events/exhibitions Posterforum der Graduate School of the Humanities, Walter Benjamin Kolleg German-speaking Switzerland 2018
Talks/events/exhibitions Ringvorlesung "Wahr und Falsch" German-speaking Switzerland 2018
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Blogbeitrag zu Menschenwürde und Völkermordleugnung Philosophie.ch Blog Western Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland 2017

Abstract

Inspired by contemporary (critical) social epistemology, this project aims at identifying the ethical-cum-epistemic implications of institutional and structural genocide denialism. Adopting scholarship on structural ignorance and epistemic injustice, I argue, first, that genocide denialism is a substantive epistemic practice of ignorance that is constituted not only by distortions of (historical) facts, but also distortions of social, moral and epistemic norms at the level of their social articulation. Secondly, I argue that it thereby produces pernicious ignorance that gives rise to epistemic oppression, identifying the latter as unjust (because discriminatory) institutional constraints on the epistemic agency of members of the former victim group. Building on Miranda Fricker’s basic vocabulary on (discriminatory) epistemic injustice, I argue that genocide denialism hermeneutically oppresses members of the former victim group insofar as they are unjustly constrained in their (morally and epistemically) valuable capacity to collectively remember genocide; further, it gives rise to testimonial oppression, insofar as their testimony on genocide is persistently misunderstood, hence their speech systematically prevented from gaining uptake. By being denied equal moral and epistemic status, they are wronged in their capacities crucial for personhood and moral agency. Further, genocide denialism harms society as a whole, as it cultivates (moral-) epistemic vices and prevents relationships of solidarity and trust among its members. The project provides a differentiated examination of the perniciousness of genocide denialism and contributes to hitherto philosophically unexplored terrain, by enriching the ongoing debates about structural ignorance and epistemic injustice with a further relevant case study. A special focus is placed on Turkey's denialism of the Armenian genocide, since it presents an exemplary case of institutionalized and structural genocide denialism, and moreover it is an instance of historical denialism that continues to the present day. Thus, the project also fills a gap in scholarship on the Armenian genocide.
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