Archives, Epistemic Injustice and Knowing the Past

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    In this essay, I argue that the destruction or hiding of archives can cause long-lasting epistemic harms and constitute complex ethical challenges. The case of Kenya’s ‘migrated archives’ is argued to be an example of how actions in the past can have long-lasting epistemic consequences and can cause contemporary epistemic injustices and harms related to one’s knowledge of the past. The perpetrators of such harms and injustices are argued to have a backward-looking epistemic responsibility and to be liable to make epistemic amends. The practice of acknowledgement is suggested as one possible way to make effective epistemic amends. I argue that making effective epistemic amends would constitute a step towards addressing epistemic harms and injustices related to our knowledge of the past. However, it is important to remember that this would only constitute one out of many necessary steps in addressing epistemic injustice and that further individual, institutional and ideological changes are necessary.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)379-394
    Number of pages16
    JournalEthics and Social Welfare
    Issue number4
    Early online date3 Aug 2021
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Bibliographical note

    This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


    • Archives
    • Kenya
    • epistemic amends
    • epistemic injustice

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Philosophy


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