Epistemic Injustice of what? Some Reflections and Future Directions for EDI

Fricker (2010: 1) defines epistemic injustice as “a wrong done to someone specifically in their capacity as a knower.” In our work on epistemic injustice, which received the Human Relations Best Paper of 2023 award, Muzanenhamo and I (2023: 4) elaborated on the concept as resulting from “prejudicial judgments linked to their social identity as women, Black people, or low-level social class, among other marginalized social categories that may intersect.” Based on our article (Muzanenhamo & Chowdhury, 2023) and a recent conversation piece at Human Relations (see Paper of the Year 2023—Conversation), in this blog, I briefly highlight how the (un)conventional understanding of epistemic injustice can be read, reflected upon, and implemented in the context of equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).

It is important to recognize that a White-dominated structure exists in Western academia and beyond, which influences the lives of diverse marginalized groups such as people who identify as LGBTQIA+, those who live in extreme poverty, and Black scholars. Powerful White (typically male) leaders often have the upper hand in decision making, task distribution, promoting others, and managing organizational and market expectations. This essentially means that White actors have a natural advantage in any given structure, allowing them to (re)adjust policies and activities that ultimately benefit them and their peers.

For example, who holds organizational roles may be influenced by biased policies, directly affecting who has access to opportunities. In such scenarios, direct bias against people of colour may disadvantage specific Black scholars when it comes to acquiring leadership positions, even if they are equally qualified compared to their White counterparts. Such problems are sometimes perpetuated by persons of colour themselves (e.g., an Asian academic) as they may be complicit (Muzanenhamo & Chowdhury, 2022) in perpetuating patriarchal or White structures that dominate Black scholars within an organization or in wider society.

In the context of Western academia, however, this problem deepens when it comes to publications, citations, and holding important editorial positions in top journals. For example, in terms of the latter, direct bias can impede a Black scholar’s ability to acquire positions due to concerns about their performance (e.g., intellectually or leadership-wise) compared to their White counterparts. Even upon attaining a leadership position, indirect bias in the form of unequal workload allocations can make it challenging for Black scholars to sustain active involvement in editorial teams or other key positions.

An even worse situation arises when it comes to citing or recognizing a Black scholar. There is significant reluctance to cite Black scholars or mention their work in public forums, and their work may be appropriated without acknowledgment. For example, Morris (2015) discusses how the Black American sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois was ignored in the field of sociology for a hundred years, despite being considered the founder of American sociology. Shockingly, one of the key figures who played a role in suppressing Du Bois during his lifetime was a conservative Black leader with whom the White American scholar Robert Park at the University of Chicago purposefully collaborated to undermine Du Bois.

Unfortunately, such practices persist. Both White persons and persons of colour may try to undermine their fellow academics or colleagues (especially Black scholars) by appropriating their work, imposing political and ideological restrictions on their publications in top academic journals, or limiting their participation in public and intellectual forums, thus preventing them from expressing their views or publishing/presenting their works.

Therefore, establishing epistemic justice needs to come foremost from within. On the one hand, we must recognize the contributions of Black scholars and acknowledge that, like any other scholars, they are equally capable, possess leadership qualities on a par with their White counterparts, that deserve to be recognized. We need more Black scholars not only in university leadership but also on editorial boards, holding powerful and influential leadership positions such as chief editors. More importantly, we need to start citing Black scholarship with due respect and showing proper admiration to Black scholars for their notable contributions.

I do not make the above suggestions lightly. In fact, with a heavy heart, I find that, as I have been working with Penelope Muzanenhamo for a while, her works are often appropriated without recognition or citation. Often, her theoretical contributions or intellectual framings are appropriated with a caricatured language, claiming that the ‘knower’ (i.e. the person who plagiarized her work) came up with the framings and arguments that she (Penelope) has already published and received recognition for.

There is a very real danger that academics will continue to plagiarize fellow colleagues’ work in writing and/or in public forums without giving them due recognition, and that powerful White individuals will keep restricting people of colour to publish and present essential truths to the world. If academics cannot change themselves, it means that we are (re)producing and cultivating wrong and morally corrupt actions within the academia and transmitting lies and corrupt practices to the wider world through our teaching, publishing, public discussions, and a multitude of everyday scholarship activities.

If we want to stop wrongdoing around the world to achieve just societies, we must fight against epistemic injustice irrespective of the colour line and provide free spaces and due recognition and dignities to all citizens and scholars as they deserve. Only then can the real undertaking and practices of EDI have meaningful starting points.


I sincerely thank Dr Maria Hudson for her suggestion to improve this piece.


Fricker M (2010) Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford: Clarendon.

Morris AD (2015) The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

Muzanenhamo P & Chowdhury R (2023) Epistemic Injustice and Hegemonic Ordeal in Management and Organization Studies: Advancing Black Scholarship. Human Relations, 76(1), 3-26.

Muzanenhamo P & Chowdhury R (2022). Leveraging from Racism: A Dual Structural Advantages Perspective. Work, Employment and Society, 36(1), 167-178.

Muzanenhamo P & Chowdhury R (authors); Anand, S. (co-editor-in-chief) and Rofcanin, Y. (associate editor) (2024) Paper of the Year 2023 – Conversation. Available online.