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Alternative Title

Speech act theory of epistemic violence

Publication Date


First Advisor

Elizabeth V. Spelman

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Epistemology, Theories of knowledge, Speech act theory, Speech acts, Silencing, Epistemic injustice, Philosophy of language, Feminist epistemology, Speech act (Linguistics), Languages and language-Philosophy, Feminist theory


In recent years, feminist philosophers have written about epistemic violence and the silencing effects of speech without deploying speech act theory. Speech act theory debunked the dichotomy between speech and action, but has yet to be fully deployed in the silencing and epistemic violence literature. This paper highlights the implicit reliance on speech acts that pervades the literature on epistemic violence and silencing and argues that a rigorous and explicit application of speech act theory to silencing provides a better account of epistemic violence. I argue that speakers are responsible for performing the speech acts they intend to perform and that audiences are responsible for fulfilling or frustrating the speaker’s intended speech acts. I further argue that epistemic violence occurs when practices of silencing systematically and predictably prevent speakers from performing the speech acts they intend to perform.




74 pages : color illustrations. Includes bibliographical references (pages 73-74)