Prof Vitaly Chernetsky: Confronting Epistemic Injustice: Ukraine as a Challenge to Our Field
If there is a common thread in the world’s reaction to Ukraine’s spirited resistance to Russia’s renewed invasion since February 24, 2022, it is surprise. Ukraine defied expectations, providing numerous examples of dignity under pressure, social initiative and organization, support of the war effort as well as aiding the displaced and the wounded. The broader Western, let alone international, expert community had to admit that it knew and understood little about Ukraine, had a habit of recycling uncritically absorbed stereotypes and ideological talking points, many of them of Russian imperialist origin, and in its soul-searching had to admit to a history of marginalizing Ukrainian studies and ignoring or dismissing Ukrainian voices. In other words, there was an entrenched pattern of epistemic injustice towards Ukraine. At the same time, the Russian military assault against Ukraine was prepared and accompanied by a campaign of epistemic violence against Ukraine, attacking its integrity and legitimacy and denying its agency. Thus the horrors of this war, in addition to the atrocities perpetrated by the Russian army, revealed a deep ethical and intellectual challenge affecting the very essence of academic inquiry in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. This talk is an invitation to our academic community to join in the project of confronting and undoing epistemic injustice towards Ukraine and considering the broader implications of this much-needed process through which our field needs to go.