We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

E-book purchase
Choose a subscription

Downloaded copy on your device does not expire. Includes 4 years of Bookshelf Online.


Where applicable, tax will be added to the above price prior to payment.

E-book purchasing help


The Epistemology of Protest

Silencing, Epistemic Activism, and the Communicative Life of Resistance

José Medina

Publication Date - 24 March 2023

ISBN: 9780197660911

456 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


The Epistemology of Protest offers a polyphonic theory of protest as a mechanism for political communication, group constitution, and epistemic empowerment. The book analyzes the communicative power of protest to break social silences and disrupt insensitivity and complicity with injustice. Philosopher José Medina also elucidates the power of protest movements to transform social sensibilities and change the political imagination. Medina's theory of protest examines the obligations that citizens and institutions have to give proper uptake to protests and to communicatively engage with protesting publics in all their diversity, without excluding or marginalizing radical voices and perspectives. Throughout the book, Medina gives communicative and epistemic arguments for the value of imagining with protest movements and for taking seriously the radical political imagination exercised in social movements of liberation.

Medina's theory sheds light on the different ways in which protest can be silenced and the different communicative and epistemic injustices that protest movements can face, arguing for forms of epistemic activism that resist silencing and communicative/epistemic injustices while empowering protesting voices. While arguing for democratic obligations to give proper uptake to protest, the book underscores how demanding listening to protesting voices can be under conditions of oppression and epistemic injustice. A central claim of the book is that responsible citizens have an obligation to echo (or express communicative solidarity with) the protests of oppressed groups that have been silenced and epistemically marginalized. Studying social uprisings, the book further argues that citizens have a duty to join protesting publics when grave injustices are in the public eye.


  • Provides a new account of how to resist silencing in the face of injustice
  • Explains the significance of protest movements for democratic life
  • Puts forth new arguments and insights about our democratic obligations to listen to protest and to protest

About the Author(s)

José Medina is Walter Dill Scott Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University. He previously taught at Vanderbilt University and has held visiting appointments at Carlos III University, Princeton University, and University of Johannesburg. His first three books were on Wittgenstein and theories of meaning, identity, and agency. His fourth book, The Epistemology of Resistance is winner of the North American Society for Social Philosophy Book Award.


"This is an immensely important book for our times. Medina provides new critical analyses of how dissent can be silenced and subtly disarmed in ways that escape the charge of censorship. He explores how protests challenge standard ideas about both knowledge and communication. And he also demonstrates, more hopefully, how social movements transform public spheres in a productive manner that outlives the current moment." -- Linda Martín Alcoff, Professor of Philosophy, City University of New York

"Medina offers a theoretically nuanced and empirically rich account of protest as 'communicative resistance' that can produce new varieties of collective learning and public inquiry. He argues that we have both a duty to protest injustice and a duty to listen actively to others' protests against injustice-even when their protests seem to be 'uncivil.' He shows that the duty to take resistance to injustice seriously is among the most important democratic responsibilities that we have." -- Michele Moody-Adams, author of Making Space for Justice

"The Epistemology of Protest fortifies José Medina's position as one of our most influential thinkers in the field of epistemic justice. Medina brilliantly applies his groundbreaking work on epistemic injustice and epistemic resistance to street activism and protest movements. At a time when democratic ideals are threatened by reactionary white supremacist movements, this book promises to provide a much-needed path to effective liberatory activism." -- Nancy Tuana, author of Racial Climates, Ecological Indifference

Table of Contents



    Part I: Protest as a Matrix of Communicative Resistance

    Chapter 1. Toward a Radical Epistemology of Protest
    1.1. Protest as Democratic Communicative Resistance
    1.2. Our Duties to Protest and to Listen to Protest: Expressive Harms and Communicative Resistance
    1.3. Managing the Duty to Protest and to Give Proper Uptake to Protest
    1.4. Uncivil Protest, Civil Death, and Liberation Movements

    Chapter 2. No Justice, No Peace: Uncivil Protest and the Politics of Confrontation
    2.1. Social Spaces without Political Resistance? Stifling Dissent and the Difficulties of Protests in Sports
    2.2. Arguments for Protesting Injustice: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
    2.3. Toward a Politics of Confrontation: Uncivil Direct Actions and Counter-protests

    Chapter 3. Silencing and Protest
    3.1. Protest as Complex Communication that Demands Uptake
    3.1.a. Expressive and Speech Acts within the Matrix of Communicative Resistance
    3.1.b. Felicity Conditions and Proper Recognition of the Complex Illocution of Protest
    3.2. Defective Uptake and Different Kinds of Silencing
    3.3. Proper Uptake and Echoing
    3.4. The Road Ahead: Radical Agency and the Four Communicative Dimensions of Protest

    Part II: Forging Communicative Solidarity and Re-Making the Polis: Changing Ourselves and Changing the World through Protest

    Chapter 4. Whose Streets? Our Streets! The Making of a Protesting Public
    4.1. Standing Together and (Re-)Shaping the Polis: The Group-Constituting Power of Protest
    4.2. Protest as a Complex Matrix of Interpellation: The Performative Power of Protest
    4.3. Group Silencing, Epistemic Activism and the Constitutive Polyphony of Protest
    Coda: You are so vain so think that this protest is about you, don't you?

    Chapter 5. Radical Testimony: Resisting Communicative and Epistemic Injustice through Protest
    5.1. Silencing and Downgrading of testimonial protest acts
    5.1.a. Communicative Injustice: Kinds of Silencing of Testimonial Protest Acts
    5.1.b. Epistemic Injustice: Kinds of Epistemic Downgrading of Testimonial Protest Acts
    A. Group Testimonial Injustice
    B. Group Hermeneutical Injustice
    C. Agential Epistemic Injustice
    5.2. Radical Testimony
    5.2.a. My Body as a Witness
    Hands Up, Don't Shoot
    The Die-Ins of ACT UP and BLM
    5.2.b. Our Suffering has No Name: Look at This!
    Documentary and Testimonial Images in the Anti-Lynching Movement
    Counter-Images and Image-Based Online Activism
    5.2.c. Our Suffering has No Name, and yet We Won't be Silent: I Can't Breathe!
    (On How Protesting Voices Echo the Silenced and Smothered Voices of their Brothers and Sisters with New and Old Language)

    Chapter 6. Protest as Critique: Emotional Expressivity and Critical Discourses
    6.1. Emotions and Social Criticism
    6.2. Conventional Emotions and Meliorative Critique in Protest Movements
    6.3. Outlaw Emotions and Radical Critique in Protest Movements
    Coda: White Rage (or “Wonderland is not for everyone!”)

    Chapter 7. Protest as a Source of Demands: Polyphony and the Radical Imagination of Liberation Movements
    7.1. Different Kinds of Demands and the Communicative Injustices They Face
    7.2. The Radical Imagination: Radical Demands and Communicative Obligations to Listen to Them


Related Titles