BSP Podcast: Lucienne Spencer on phenomenology and hermeneutical injustice

podcast update

This new episode of the BSP Podcast sees Lucienne Spencer present a paper from our 2020 annual conference, ‘Engaged Phenomenology’.

Season 5 episode 113: 15 May 2021

This episode of Season 5 of the BSP Podcast features Lucienne Spencer, University of Bristol. The presentation is taken from our 2020 annual conference: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ Online.

Listen to this episode on the BSP’s Podbean site

You can also find this episode on all good podcasting apps by searching ‘BSP Podcast’.

Lucienne Spencer
‘The phenomenological impact of hermeneutical injustice’

ABSTRACT: Fricker coined the term ‘hermeneutical injustice’ to highlight gaps in the interpretive framework where experiences of marginalised groups ought to be. Fricker illustrates hermeneutical injustice primarily through the victims of sexual harassment prior to the 1960s: without the term ‘sexual harassment’ at their disposal, the victim was not only incapable of discussing sexual harassment but also lacked the hermeneutical resources to fully make sense of the experience themselves. Fricker identifies a primary harm in hermeneutical injustice, through which the victim is undermined as a ‘knower’, and a secondary harm, through which the victim encounters practical disadvantages such as being unable to report sexual harassment. The purpose of this talk is to draw out a further, phenomenological harm that is overlooked in the literature. For Merleau-Ponty, speech expression is a manner of employing one’s body to engage with the world. Prior to expression, there lingers nothing in the mind but a ‘vague fever’. Only upon expression does this ‘vague fever’ transform into meaningful communication. As a gesture, speech expression does not signify meaning; rather words are saturated with meaning through their expression. Merleau-Ponty emphasises the role of speech expression as fundamental to the activity of projecting oneself toward the world. Hermeneutical resources are created and sustained by those who belong to privileged groups, and as such are designed to express their privileged experiences. Armed with speech expression, the hermeneutically advantaged move through the world with a pre-reflective openness. Drawing on Merleau-Ponty, I will argue that hermeneutical injustice causes a disruption of the patterns of embodiment in marginalised subjects, who are unable to engage with the world in the same way as their privileged counterparts.  As speech expression is a fundamental aspect of embodiment, I will show that hermeneutical injustice constitutes a breakdown of the body-world synthesis for marginalised subjects.

BIO: I’m a third-year SWW-DTP funded PhD student at the University of Bristol under the supervision of Havi Carel (and co-supervised by Lisa El Refaie of Cardiff University). My research spans the areas of phenomenology, epistemic injustice and the philosophy of illness. Through my thesis, I hope to develop an account of the experience of psychiatric illness through Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of speech expression. Given my interest in widening participation, I have been involved in the ‘Insights into Philosophy’ scheme targeted at state schools across Bristol and am the Postgraduate Representative for the Society for Women in Philosophy UK.

This recording is taken from the BSP Annual Conference 2020 Online: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’. Organised with the University of Exeter and sponsored by Egenis and the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. BSP2020AC was held online this year due to global concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic. For the conference our speakers recorded videos, our keynotes presented live over Zoom, and we also recorded some interviews. Podcast episodes from BSP2020AC are soundtracks of those videos where we and the presenters feel the audio works as a standalone.

The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?