Martynyuk, Sophiya

May 26, 2021

Prompt Question 14: Does some knowledge belong only to particular communities of knowers?

Object 1: ‘The case for reparations’ – an article from The Atlantic


The case for Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, was published in June 2014; discussing the fight for reparations and racism experienced in America. This article gives an insight into the widespread issue of the intergenerational trauma of knowledge of black people, and how it’s portrayed to different communities of knowers. One of which is a community who believe that it is necessary to be educated on this matter and another, who agree that the knowledge originating from their ancestral trees should only belong to them.

From the perspective of theory of knowledge, the insight into these uprising issues allows for people not of or relating to African Americans to be informed about the ‘two hundred and fifty years of slavery’ and ‘thirty five years of racist housing policy’. This knowledge, especially regarding the slave trade, does not only belong to a particular community of knowers, as it’s a catastrophic issue which was initiated by the white, powerful, privileged society. While particular communities of knowers do not face racist micro-aggressions on a daily basis, they should be mindful of those that do. It is crucial that this knowledge is shared with people of all races, or there will never be hope for change. This article encourages readers to think about what they’re doing (physically and verbally), and to distinguish between things which may be interpreted as racist, disrespectful and prejudice.

This object further enriches this exhibition because despite systematic racism still being a prominent problem, this article is significant and will remain so until reparations are repaid. Certain individuals, especially those in positions of authority, will misuse the knowledge depicted in this article in order to have people view themselves as inclusive and considerate. Ignorance is presented by people whose ancestors did not have to live in such inhumane circumstances. This is because they believe that the suffering they have endured is exclusive to a certain community of knowers.

Object 2: Ying Yang symbol as a nail design


Invented in China as long ago as 600BCE, the principle of the Yin Yang symbol is that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites. This concept of duality forming a whole is used in various different ways, but recently has become a popular nail design. This symbol ‘belongs’ to the Chines religion, specifically roots in Taoism. As the concept of Yin Yang is associated with Chinese, it could be argued that particular communities of knowers shouldn’t be welcomed to use it, especially as a nail design because it could be seen as degrading and discourteous.

One way in which this object contributes to this exhibition is by the controversy of whether or not the Yin Yang symbol should be welcomed to all communities of knowers, some of which could just use it as a nail design because they find it pleasing to the eye. The gesture of using it as a nail design could be seen as ignorant, which parallels the article from The Atlantic. Both these objects show how specific knowledge can be taken out of context and used for the benefit or preference of people’s desires.

Another way in which this object contributes to the exhibition is through the argument that this sign of ‘utility and balance’ should be allowed to be accessed by all communities of knowers. The thought of complementary forces is experienced by everyone, proposing that this knowledge is welcomed to be used by all individuals as it is a universal sign which can be interpreted in various ways. I have noticed an example of this on social-media, as the knowledge received by the following of influencers can be interpreted depending on the individual.

Object 3: ‘American Dirt’ – novel by American author Jeanine Cummins


American Dirt is a book written by Jeanine Cummins. This novel displays the determination of the mother and son seeking a chance at life in a world doing everything it can to ravage them. Jeanine Cummins herself was born in Spain and spent her childhood in Maryland. She wrote the book from the perspective of a Mexican mother. The latin community perceived this as an invasion of their knowledge and profoundly racist. The prompt question presents how certain individuals may believe that writing from the perspective of Native blood isn’t a problem, whereas some may see this as unacceptable.

When taking the reviews into consideration, it’s evident that there are allegedly two main groups of people: those who rated the book 1 star and those who rated the book 4/5 stars. This is especially interesting because we are presented with a controversial topic which spikes discussion, perhaps working in favour for the book as it gained a lot of publicity. A segment of the audience sees the novel as a white woman profiting from the misery of Brown people, while another finds it to be an insightful representation of the migrant’s plight. This demonstrates how diverse groups of knowers have differing perspectives on someone writing a novel on behalf of things they haven’t personally experienced.

Many perceptions and perspectives have a meaning and real essence that is unique to a certain origin and the cultural/historical awareness that only native speakers can achieve. This relates to the exhibition in terms of how specific communities of knowers would see the novel purely as a fictitious tale of no malicious motive. I understand that some knowers would contend that the migrant trial in Mexico is only known by them in terms of credible facts and sincere emotion. However, if it weren’t for the controversy that the book sparked, I would not have learned about the subject, so it could be seen as a positive that unintentional publicity brought attention to an issue that many people were unaware about.

References: someones-actually-read-ta-nehisi-coates-essay?t=1619596794323

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