Hermeneutics against settler colonialism: Balamohan Shingade, Hermeneutical Injustice in the Context of Settler Colonialism, MA dissertation, University of Auckland, 2022


Abstract: The search for justice in Aotearoa New Zealand will depend, in part, on how we contend with and overcome the settler-colonial situation—in a word, it will be based on the struggle for decolonisation. This thesis aims to show how epistemic goals and hermeneutical practices are not incidental, but intrinsic to such political struggles. Focusing on the epistemic dimension of Indigenous–settler relations, I discuss the asymmetrical practices of interpretation and understanding across these groups, and specifically across te ao Māori and the Western worldview. In the context of settler colonialism, when Indigenous peoples are wronged in their capacities as knowers and knowledge holders, they experience “epistemic injustice” (Fricker 2007). More precisely, the thesis demonstrates how “hermeneutical injustice” occurs due to deficiencies, dysfunctions, and distortions maintained in the dominant hermeneutical resources, which settlers in turn impose onto Indigenous peoples while simultaneously marginalising them from shaping dominant interpretations and understandings in a way that draws upon Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing. I further demonstrate that cross-cultural knowledge practices are socio-politically motivated such that the marginally situated make genuine efforts at interpretation and understanding, whereas dominantly situated interlocutors practice what I term “disingenuous interpretive charity.” Correspondingly, reflecting on questions of blameworthiness and responsibility, I suggest that settlers’ individual and collective responsibility for hermeneutical justice should be conceived as forward-looking and solidarity-oriented. Finally, I propose “unsettling” as a possible method, which opens to ontologico-epistemic shifts, and helps clear the space for thinking through what is unthinkable under the logics of settler colonialism.

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