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Abstract

This article discusses the meaning of epistemological violence in the empirical social sciences. It is argued that the concept is closer to personal than to structural violence in that it has a subject, an object, and an action, even if the violence is indirect and nonphysical: the subject of violence is the researcher, the object is the Other, and the action is the interpretation of data that is presented as knowledge. Using a hypothetical example, the problem of interpretation in empirical research on the Other is discussed. Epistemological violence refers to the interpretation of social-scientific data on the Other and is produced when empirical data are interpreted as showing the inferiority of or problematizes the Other, even when data allow for equally viable alternative interpretations. Interpretations of inferiority or problematizations are understood as actions that have a negative impact on the Other. Because the interpretations of data emerge from an academic context and thus are presented as knowledge, they are defined as epistemologically violent actions. Problems, consequences, and practices surrounding this concept are discussed.