The Democratisation Myth

Open Access and the Solidification of Epistemic Injustices



Open access (OA) in the Global North is considered to solve an accessibility problem in scholarly communication. But this accessibility is restricted to the consumption of knowledge. Epistemic injustices inhering in the scholarly communication of a global production of knowledge remain unchanged. This underscores that the commercial or big deal OA dominating Europe and North America have little revolutionary potential to democratise knowledge. Academia in the Global North, driven by politics of progressive neoliberalism, can even reinforce its hegemonic power by solidifying and legitimating contemporary hierarchies of scholarly communication through OA. In a critique of the notion of a democratisation of knowledge, I showcase manifestations of OA as either allowing consumption of existing discourse or as active participation of discourse in the making. The latter comes closer to being the basis for a democratisation of knowledge. I discuss this as I issue a threefold conceptualisation of epistemic injustices comprising of testimonial injustice, hermeneutical injustice, and epistemic objectification. As these injustices prevail, the notion of a democratisation of knowledge through OA is but another form of technological determinism that neglects the intricacies of culture and hegemony.


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Research Papers



How to Cite

Marcel Knöchelmann (2021) “The Democratisation Myth: Open Access and the Solidification of Epistemic Injustices”, Science & Technology Studies, 34(2), pp. 65–89. doi: 10.23987/sts.94964.