Human Studies

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 237–255 | Cite as

Empirical Race Psychology and the Hermeneutics of Epistemological Violence

  • Thomas Teo
Theoretical Paper


After identifying the discipline of psychology’s history of contributing pioneers and leaders to the field of race research, epistemological problems in empirical psychology are identified including an adherence to a naïve empiricist philosophy of science. The reconstruction focuses on the underdetermined relationship between data and interpretation. It is argued that empirical psychology works under a hermeneutic deficit and that this deficit leads to the advancement of interpretations regarding racialized groups that are detrimental to those groups. Because these interpretations are understood as actions that bring harm to certain racialized groups, and because these actions are made in the name of science and knowledge, the term epistemological violence is applied. Reflections regarding the meanings and consequences of this term in empirical psychology and the human sciences are presented.


Epistemological violence Scientific racism Psychology Hermeneutics 



This article is based on a paper presented in the fall of 2010 at the 7th California Roundtable for Philosophy and Race at Northwestern University. It is a continuation of my work on epistemological violence (Teo 2008, 2010) supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Standard Research Grant.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, History and Theory of PsychologyYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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