What Is A Minority/Marginalized Epistemology?

This post was inspired by a fascinating tweet I saw the other day and immediately retweeted. If you like the tweet, go follow Audrey Nissly on Twitter.

| ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄|
Supporting minorities
in academia also
requires supporting
minority epistemologies
(\__/) ||
(•ㅅ•) ||
/   づ
— Audrey Nissly

I immediately retweeted this because it’s important. I wanted to take some time to explain my thoughts on minority/marginalized epistemologies because I think they are relevant and are oftentimes excluded from the dominant/mainstream body of knowledge.

What does it mean for something to be a minority or marginalized epistemology?

Bodies of knowledge and ways of thinking are affected by social structures, social weight, and popular beliefs and ideologies. To pretend otherwise, to insist that knowledge and ways of thinking are immune to the contexts of the societies they are present in or are being discussed by is bad because it’s not reflective of reality. We need to understand and accept that independent of whether or not a way of thinking or a form of reasoning is reflective of reality it is affected by how society perceives it and that even in academia there is a significant influence that popular beliefs have on how ways of thinking and even some knowledge itself is perceived.

If we recognize that it’s possible for a body of knowledge to be excluded from mainstream awareness we recognize that there are minority or marginalized epistemologies/epistemology.

Why does this matter?

This matters because different ways of thinking, and knowledge that runs contrary to the mainstream understanding of something, are important. As an atheist I am aware that my epistemological understanding of the universe and of theology are not mainstream even in many academic circles. I recognize that and take it into consideration whenever I write about things like theology and the universe from my own understanding. I am also a minority whenever I write about the histories of Latin America and of Latino/a/x folks in general. I am a realist and as such I know when my views and the bodies of knowledge that I draw from are part of a marginalized framework, and marginalized bodies of knowledge. And this marginalization doesn’t have to stem from a lack of popularity it can stem from plain inaccessibility, such as a bilingual person making use of resources that don’t exist in English.

Pretending that marginalized bodies of knowledge, marginalized mental frameworks, and uncommon knowledge are merely uncommon because they are untrue or unproven is not good and it’s not reflective of reality. I’ve seen both skeptics and non-skeptics do this such as by labeling things “woo” and it does people, ideas, and frameworks a disservice.

What is popular, what is accessible, and what is mainstream are not always the best approaches to things and they are rarely comprehensive. We need to be aware of how accessibility affects what is deemed knowledge and how what is deemed knowledge is what’s accessible to mainstream audiences, what is excluded on the basis of what is acceptable to existing social institutions, and how to reconcile the fact that not all knowledge is treated fairly.