Scholarship

“Epistemological insiderism not only stakes out certain domains as belonging to persons with certain identities; it also risks boxing persons with those identities into specific domains”

…the Tuvel affair raises issues that go beyond the controversial notion of transracialism. First, it invites reflection on what might be called “epistemological insiderism.” This is the belief that identity qualifies or disqualifies one from writing with legitimacy and authority about a particular topic. Few would argue directly that who we are should govern what we study. But subtler forms of epistemological insiderism are at work in the practice of assessing scholarly arguments with central reference to the identity of the author. Does the often-mentioned fact that Dr. Tuvel is white and cisgender (as am I) disqualify her from raising certain questions? Is her identity relevant to assessing her argument for according more weight to an individual’s racial self-identification and less weight to ancestry?

Epistemological insiderism not only stakes out certain domains as belonging to persons with certain identities; it also risks boxing persons with those identities into specific domains. It risks conveying the patronizing and offensive expectation that members of racial and ethnic minorities will focus their scholarship on race and ethnicity.

Rogers Brubaker, “The Uproar Over ‘Transracialism'”, The New York Times (18 May 2017) [https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/18/opinion/the-uproar-over-transracialism.html?_r=0]