Standpoint Theory and the Psy Sciences: Can Marginalization and Critical Engagement Lead to an Epistemic Advantage?

Hypatia 37 (4):659-687 (2022)
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Abstract

As participatory research practices are increasingly taken up in health research, claims related to experiential authority and expertise are frequently made. Here, in an exploration of what grounds such claims, we consider how feminist standpoint theory might apply to the psy sciences (psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and so on). Standpoint theory claims that experiences of marginalization and critical engagement can lead to a standpoint that offers an epistemic advantage within a domain of knowledge. We examine experiences of marginalization and critical engagement in the mental health system, as well as evidence for epistemic advantages resulting from these experiences. This evidence, found in the identification of problematic assumptions and the development of new tools and theories in the field, grounds our argument that standpoint theory is indeed relevant to the psy sciences and that many of those who have experienced marginalization and have engaged critically have an epistemic advantage when it comes to knowledge-production. The implications of this argument are significant: those who have attained a standpoint within the psy sciences ought to be included in research and given both tools and funding to develop research programs. However, we must be wary of the risks of tokenization, cooptation, and essentialization that are likely to accompany such a transformation.

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