Self-Understanding and the Refugee Claimant

By Jill Rusin and Mark F. N. Franke.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The difficulties of refugee claim adjudication are well known. It can be extremely difficult to determine the veracity of a given claim, and the difficulty of structuring a fair claims process is itself significant. In this paper, working from within the Canadian context of refugee determination, we propose to examine an additional potential injustice associated with the claims process — the epistemic injustice done to an applicant who has little understanding of the claims process itself. We argue that such an applicant is subject to what philosopher Miranda Fricker calls “hermeneutical injustice” — an injustice due to the paucity of resources available to the subject to make sense of her experience. Being classed, or failing to be classed, as a refugee meriting asylum is a pivotal moment in a claimant’s life history. We argue that lacking access to resources necessary for understanding the basis of this determination amounts to a type of injustice, an injustice that is both epistemological and ethical.

Keywords: Epistemology, Self-understanding, Fricker, Hermeneutical Injustice, Refugees

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp.187-198. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 621.202KB).

Dr. Jill Rusin

Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

My central area of research is within epistemology but draws from and engages with work in philosophy of language, action theory, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and feminist theory. I have particular interest in skepticism. My current work is on epistemic agency.

Dr. Mark F. N. Franke

Associate Professor, Centre for Global Studies, Huron University College, London, Ontario, Canada

Mark F. N. Franke is Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Global Studies at Huron University College and is a core graduate faculty member in The Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism at the University of Western Ontario. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science at The Johns Hopkins University in 1998 and has taught previously in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria and in the International Studies Program at the University of Northern British Columbia. Professor Franke is author of Global Limits: Immanuel Kant, International Relations, and Critique of World Politics (SUNY Press, 2001) and has published articles and chapters on problems regarding international ethics, global indigenous politics, human rights theory, and the spatial/temporal politics of human rights discourse and law.

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