Epistemic Virtue in the Assessment of Claims to Refugee Status

By Mark F. N. Franke and Jill Rusin.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Persons that asylum states mandate with assessment of claims to refugee status face confounding ethical problems in their work. Regardless of the rigor and care with which they seek guidance from international refugee law, domestic immigration policies, and what material evidence may disclose, it is rare for those assessing the claims to ultimately have more than the perceived credibility of the claimants from which to generate their decisions. Consequently, critics complain that states’ processes of refugee assessment are fundamentally subjective and involve almost arbitrary application of refugee identity as opposed to its discovery, often resulting in further harm to legitimate claimants whose status is denied. However, in light of philosopher Miranda Fricker’s analyses of epistemic injustice, this paper aims to consider the extent to which the assessment of claims to refugee status may still be conducted with epistemic virtue. This paper tests Fricker’s arguments regarding the possibility of maintaining an ethically sound approach to epistemic judgment in the reception of testimony where harm on the basis of mistaken judgment is still possible. Moreover, to the extent that Fricker’s argument is successful, this paper reflects on the positive impact that such attention to epistemic virtue may have on reform of assessment processes in place.

Keywords: Epistemic Virtue, Refugee Status, Epistemic Injustice, Ethics, Credibility, Assessment

Global Studies Journal, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.185-194. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 593.053KB).

Dr. Mark F. N. Franke

Associate Professor, Centre for Global Studies, Huron University College, London, Ontario, Canada

Mark F. N. Franke is Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Global Studies at Huron University College and is a core graduate faculty member in The Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism at the University of Western Ontario. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science at The Johns Hopkins University in 1998 and has taught previously in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria and in the International Studies Program at the University of Northern British Columbia. Professor Franke is author of Global Limits: Immanuel Kant, International Relations, and Critique of World Politics (SUNY Press, 2001) and has published articles and chapters on problems regarding international ethics, global indigenous politics, human rights theory, and the spatial/temporal politics of human rights discourse and law.

Dr. Jill Rusin

Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

My central area of research is within epistemology but draws from and engages with work in philosophy of language, action theory, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and feminist theory. I have particular interest in skepticism. My current work is on epistemic agency.

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