Epistemological Privilege.

Epistemology is the study of knowledge. Epistemologists concern themselves with a number of tasks, which we might sort into two categories.

First, we must determine the nature of knowledge; that is, what does it mean to say that someone knows, or fails to know, something? This is a matter of understanding what knowledge is, and how to distinguish between cases in which someone knows something and cases in which someone does not know something. While there is some general agreement about some aspects of this issue, we shall see that this question is much more difficult than one might imagine.

Second, we must determine the extent of human knowledge; that is, how much do we, or can we, know? How can we use our reason, our senses, the testimony of others, and other resources to acquire knowledge? Are there limits to what we can know? For instance, are some things unknowable? Is it possible that we do not know nearly as much as we think we do? Should we have a legitimate worry about scepticism, the view that we do not or cannot know anything at all? See http://www.iep.utm.edu/epistemo/

Privilege – an ​advantage that only one ​person or ​group of ​people has, usually because of ​their ​position or because they are ​rich. see http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/privilege

By no means or any shape or form am I ‘rich’. Had a few quid at one stage in my life but not now. In the latest issue of The Prison Service Journal there are a few articles that are testament to what I’m alluding to – see http://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/sites/crimeandjustice.org.uk/files/PSJ%20224%20March%202016.pdf

These articles strike a chord with people like myself. Not just because I know and work with the people involved but because I’ve lived and am living it.  The academic side of these articles speak for themselves. Especially in ‘Bridging The Gap’ by Aresti, Darke and Manlow where a question is posited as to how many academically qualified people who have been to prison are employed by the MOJ, NOMS et al. Tumble weed blowing across a deserted street comes to mind.

Epistemological privilege goes way beyond the definitions given in dictionaries. On the 24th of March 2016 I attended The Irish Postgraduate Criminology Conference at Ulster University York Street Belfast (ironically the Art College building where I did my apprenticeship as a printer 30 yrs ago) and met up with some old friends and made some new ones. It was great to chat with Steve Tombs and Phil Scraton. The last time we were all together was in a wee bar in Liverpool after a fantastic European Study of Deviance and Social Control Conference in 2014.

Phil delivered his amazing talk on the Hillsborough Disaster and as always it brought a lump to my throat. Each time for different reasons. This time it was about “The view from below, Telling The Truth to Power and bearing witness.” The statement that got me the most is “I know because I was there.” See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E0QTrvZNac Couldn’t get it out of my head for the rest of the day.

Funny old world eh? The next day I had a PhD interview. Don’t think I answered all the questions to my or the panels liking but what I did do was allow people who don’t know me to see the passion behind this privilege of knowledge I have in the world of prisons, reintegration and criminology. It’s not always a good thing though, after all, how does this academic knowledge translate into daily life?

Was asked to appear on a popular radio show on Monday morning. When I heard the subject matter I declined. Listened to the show and boy was I glad I declined. Attended two funerals this week, one on my Birthday and again it brought to the fore the epistemological privilege we share as friends and family of life, death and choices we make in life.

Posted this on Facebook on the 04/04/2016 (my Birthday) and I think it sums up the knowledge and privilege we all have as people.

” 9 years ago – today – I made a decision to do something that would change my life forever. Today I wonder who that guy was. Where did he go. Got a call from my mate in the Bahamas (worrying about thunderstorms), a pic from the last girl I hugged in Africa and text from people across the globe. Wishing me well – as I watched a friend put her father to rest. Was asked to be a participant in a radio show this morning. I’m glad I declined. Who are we to judge? Got to go watch another friend bury his mother tomorrow. Today has touched me more than words. Be kind folks we only got one shot -”
Through hardship, pain and laughter we learn and develop knowledge. We chat on Facebook and social media and it’s great to a certain extent. Back in the day we used to go to the pub. Personally I think we should do it more often (go to the pub that is). Sometimes a smile, a nod or abuse from those who really know you demonstrates how much knowledge we subconsciously share with friends and family. Life is a pain in the arse sometimes but we live via lived experience.

About micsirwin

I'm a Postgraduate student at Queens studying Criminology, writer, poet and lover of integrity, dignity, respect and morality
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2 Responses to Epistemological Privilege.

  1. Kush says:

    A beautiful, refreshing read.


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