Institutional epistemic justice and group integration

In the following essay, I will provide an argument for how institutional epistemic virtues are not always achievable by group integration as argued by Anderson when trying to combat epistemic injustice. I will defend this stance based on the notion that outcomes of integration can bring about some unsatisfactory results, thus it does not provide a way to deal with institutional epistemic injustice. An example of gender quota in politics will further explain the issue. As outcomes of integration are in this case negative, I will argue that El Kassar’s position can, however, account for mitigating risks of increasing self-trust of the discriminated group. This, however, can succeed only when certain conditions are met. I will start by explaining important concepts and ideas in order to understand Anderson’s positions by initially spelling out Fricker’s ideas since they can be viewed as grounds for later contributions. Fricker distinguishes between testimonial and hermeneutical injustice, where the focus was drawn toward the former one. It is understood as a form of deficit of credibility, which is experienced by the speaker when giving any type of testimony, hence the name (Fricker, 2007, p. 21). It is the case when the credibility is not provided by the listener due to negative identity prejudice (Fricker, 2007, p. 17). As a solution to testimonial injustice, Fricker developed the idea of cultivating an individual anti-prejudicial virtue (Congdon, 2017, p. 246). The virtue, as expressed by Fricker, is a reflexive social realization of how identity power operates and in which way it engages the communication (Congdon, 2017, p. 246). A contribution to that was made by Anderson, whose focus was drawn toward systems and structures of epistemic injustice. That refers to the context where information of testimony is usually gathered (Anderson, 2012, p. 167).

Anderson additionally expanded Fricker’s solution to what she viewed as crucial: “institutional virtues” (Congdon, 2017, p. 246). Anderson believes that, even when one is able to change themselves in accordance with individual virtue, institutional injustice will still take place. Anderson’s focus on institutional virtue refers, specifically, to group integration. The solution was brought about due to Anderson’s recognition of three structural causes of deficit of credibility on a group level, namely distinctive access to markers of credibility, ethnocentrism, and the “‘shared reality bias’ (Anderson, 2012, p. 169). As marked by Anderson “structural injustices call for structural remedies” (2012, p. 172), hence focus on education was drawn, which according to her, resolves the issue of the aforementioned causes. Equal education provides equal conditions for everyone and in return access to the same markers of credibility. Moreover, everyone’s equal engagement influences disadvantaged ones to gain epistemic favor. Lastly, shared education produces shared reality (Anderson, 2012, 171-172). The focus here is merely on education, while other spheres are also expressed as crucial to overcoming institutional injustice, such as politics where diversity and inclusion can be introduced on the same basis. One of Anderson’s arguments in favor of dealing with institutional epistemic injustice focused on structural causes of deficit of credibility as a group bias (Anderson, 2012, p. 169-170). As I explained in the previous paragraph, those sources were argued to be dealt with by implementing structural changes mainly within education. Providing equal educational attainment for everyone would provide, according to Anderson, among others, epistemic favor of disadvantaged groups (Anderson, 2012, p. 171-172). However, this approach is found not to be effective in the case of gender equality in leadership positions (In-Mind, n.d.). Even though in most European countries, a greater number of women have a university degree than men, stigma within the career path is still experienced by women. While integration within the educational system is achieved, women still occupy less number of professorship or leadership positions (In-Mind, n.d.).

However, in accordance with Anderson’s arguments, further integration was introduced in many European countries in order to increase the number of women occupying higher positions in various organizations; namely gender quota. It refers to a policy that guarantees a certain share of an organization, list or group to be represented by women (International IDEA, 2021). It is done due to the fact that in politics and law, women’s accounts are often disregarded from the male perspective which led to their minimum gain in both spheres which indicates testimonial injustice (Hoskyns, 1996). Introducing the gender quota for those who experience testimonial injustice is a solution in favor of Anderson’s position. However, negative outcomes have been found after its implementation, which proves that structural integration does not deal with the injustice. There is evidence that supports the idea that women who are chosen based on a quota are viewed as less competent than those chosen on the basis of merit (In-Mind, n.d.). This suggests a notion that even when the integration succeeds, it can still bring negative outcomes in regard to credibility deficit, which can be further deepened.

Moreover, these results also depend on the environment in which the quota is introduced. As researched in the political sphere, political stability is highlighted as a factor strongly influencing success of the equal gender rights policy (Baker, 2014).

Thus, when this external factor is not fulfilled, simple integration will not solve the injustice experienced by women. Furthermore, the political realm is also highly influenced by the dominant group, namely male political elites who often are in opposition to introducing gender quotas at all (Baker, 2014). This further provides evidence that integration on a structural level when dealing with epistemic injustice is not always the solution, since the negative outcomes can be witnessed. While gender quota can negatively influence epistemic injustice, it can, however, mitigate the risk of decreasing intellectual self-trust of the disadvantaged ones as argued by El Kassar (2021, p. 197).

This type of self-trust is viewed by her as both something injured by epistemic injustice, as well as a tool to overcome it (2021, p. 197). Self-distrust often entails a loss of faith in one’s perceptions; or lack of self-awareness, diminished capacity for self-expression, and isolation from others (El Kassar, 2021, p. 198-200). In contrast, high levels of self-trust are argued by El Kassar (2021, p. 206) to hinder the negative outcomes of epistemic injustice such as self-doubt which occurs on an individual level. Furthermore, on a collective level, self-trust provides a sense of a community where one is feeling heard (El Kassar, 2021, p. 204). Such mechanism provides an idea of a solution for epistemic injustice by ensuring self-trust for the disadvantaged ones. I believe that integration can possibly have negative outcomes, but on the other hand have beneficial results by mitigating the risks of self-distrust on an individual level. That is proved by the study done on a sample of white women, who ended up developing a positive self-image when being aware of implemented affirmative actions, which refer to a set of social policies aimed at encouraging the inclusion of members of underrepresented groups in the workforce and higher education (Ghavami, Gutiérrez & Unzueta, 2010, p. 120). However, this is achieved only when women are unaware of the fact that those actions benefit them directly (Ghavami et al., 2010, p. 123). It is due to the fact that when one thinks of themselves as a beneficiary of an affirmative action, a negative self-image may arise resulting from “stigma of incompetence” (Ghavami et al., 2010, p. 120), which simply put, is a belief that those who benefit from affirmative actions are incompetent.

To conclude, I have provided an argument that integration, which was argued by Anderson to be a solution to epistemic injustice, can result in negative outcomes. First, integration in the educational sphere was proved as already tackled, since a higher number of women hold higher degrees than men (In-Mind, n.d.). Further integration was also debunked, which was shown on examples of gender quotas introduced in institutions for leadership positions as well as in politics. Women, as disadvantaged ones in achieving higher positions, after the introduction of a gender quota, may experience being viewed as incompetent. However, I argued that integration may mitigate the risks of self-distrust for those who experience epistemic injustice. In line with El Kassar’s arguments, it was found that women who benefit from affirmative actions such as quotas, of which they are not aware, are prone to develop a positive self-image.


Anderson, E. (2012). “Epistemic Justice As a Virtue of Social Institutions.” Social Epistemology 26 (2): 163–73.

Baker, K. (2014). Explaining the outcome of gender quota campaigns in Samoa and Papua New Guinea. Political Science, 66(1), 63–83.

Congdon, M. (2017). “What’s Wrong with Epistemic Injustice? Harm, vice, objectification, misrecognition.” In The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice, edited by Ian James Kidd, José Medina, and Gaile Pohlhaus. London: Routledge.

El Kassar, N. (2021). “The Powers of Individual and Collective Intellectual Self-Trust in Dealing with Epistemic Injustice.” Social Epistemology 35 (2): 197–209.

Fricker, M. (2007). Epistemic Injustice : Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hoskyns, C. (1996). Integrating gender: Women, law and politics in the European Union. Verso. In-Mind. (n.d.) What are the positive and negative side effects of gender quotas? In-Mind.

International IDEA. (2021). Gender Quotas.; IDEA.

Unzueta, M. M., Gutiérrez, A. S., & Ghavami, N. (2010). How believing in affirmative action quotas affects White women’s self-image. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(1), 120-126.

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