National Council of Teachers of English
By attending to interactions around writing, this article sheds light on moments when educators affirm and when writers assert their epistemic rights, or the rights to knowledge, experience, and earned expertise. Affirmations and assertions of epistemic rights can work to counter epistemic injustice, or harm done to a person in their capacity as a knower. Though an understanding of rhetoric as “epistemic” or “epistemological” is not new (e.g., Berlin; Dowst; Scott; Villanueva), I argue that we need to bring attention to the related terms and conceptual frameworks of epistemic rights and epistemic injustice. Together, these terms help to explain the wrongs (micro-inequities leading to macro-injustices) that manifest when writers are stripped of language, experience, or expertise and their attendant agency, confidence, and even personhood. Case studies from writing center and community literacy partnerships illustrate the work of asserting one’s epistemic rights through the act of “writing up” (akin to speaking up) to audiences with greater institutional power and more implicit right to speak. Most prominent is a conversation analytic rendering of just two minutes of “writing up.” These minutes show the work of negotiating one’s right to speak/write. As such, this study highlights both the social stakes involved and the interactional work needed for putting one’s words into the world. Hence, this project contributes empirical research in addition to an understanding of epistemic rights that can counter epistemic injustice.