Articulating Understanding: A Phenomenological Approach to Testimony on Gendered Violence

International Journal of Philosophical Studies 29 (4):448-472 (2021)
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Abstract

ABSTRACT Testimony from victims of gendered violence is often wrongly disbelieved. This paper explores a way to address this problem by developing a phenomenological approach to testimony. Guided by the concept of ‘disclosedness’, a tripartite analysis of testimony as an affective, embodied, communicative act is developed. Affect indicates how scepticism may arise through the social moods that often attune agents to victims’ testimony. The embodiment of meaning suggests testimony should not be approached as an assertion, but as a process of ‘articulating an understanding’. This account is deepened in the discussion of testimony as a communicative act. It is argued that testimony must be considered as a relational whole, and thus our aim in receiving victims’ testimony should be to honour the relational conditions under which the truth of testimony can be heard. Approaching testimony as the collaborative process of enabling an understanding to be articulated can enhance our conception of gendered violence, whilst also better serving the victims of gendered violence by helping to overcome the lack of trust and excessive scepticism with which victims’ testimony is often met.

Author's Profile

Charlotte Knowles
University of Groningen

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