Attentional Discrimination and Victim Testimony

Philosophical Psychology (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Sometimes, a form of discrimination is hard to register, understand, and articulate. A rich precedent demonstrates how victim testimonies have been key in uncovering such ‘hidden’ forms of discrimination, from sexual harassment to microaggressions. I reflect on how this plausibly goes too for a new hypothesised form of ‘attentional discrimination’, referring to cases where the more meaningful attributes of one social group are made salient in attention in contrast to the less meaningful attributes of another. Victim testimonies understandably dominate the ‘context-of-discovery’ stage of research into these initially opaque forms of discrimination; a victim’s encounter with the gap between their experience and dominant conceptual frameworks for understanding it is what provides an initial foothold for analysis to begin. Some object, however, to this methodology continuing to dominate the later ‘context-of-justification’ stage, where the hypothesis is rigorously challenged. I argue that this objection underestimates not just how other methodologies are more likely to inherit the various mechanisms of invisibility hiding the discrimination in question, but also how victim testimonies are distinctively well-suited to recognise and challenge those mechanisms. Victim testimonies, then, ought to continue playing a dominant role into these later stages of research into hidden forms of discrimination.

Author's Profile

Ella Whiteley
University of Sheffield

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