Maria Liegghio (2013) has defined "epistemic violence" as the very denial of the person's legitimacy as a knower, their knowledge and their ways of knowing, which renders that person out of existence, unable to be heard and to have their interest count".

In other words, epistemic violence is what happens when dominant groups control the processes of production, circulation and distribution of knowledge and use them against certain sections of the society as tools to gain control over social and economic resources. Epistemic violence thus results in a denial of legitimacy, dignity or self respect to the groups it is targeted at. In the context of online spaces, the narratives of marginalized communities are misrepresented in ways that make them feel disempowered and unsafe. As a result, they have no control over the ways in which they want to be represented, seen or heard, denying them basic agency in their everyday lives.

Wilson and Mafeje (1963) state, "The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e. the class which is ruling the material force of Society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of production at its disposal has control, at the same time, over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it".2

Similarly, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (1944) analysed the phenomenon of epistemic violence stating, "The stench of the old name will stick to the new and you will be forced to change your name continually."

next: Lived experience of online spaces