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Leonie Smith

PhD thesis

Epistemic Exclusion, Resistance, and Personhood


Research interests

Social ontology, social epistemology, political theory, global justice, collective agency, personhood

Current research

I’m interested in philosophical questions at the crossroads of traditional and social epistemology, social ontology, and epistemic and material injustice. My PhD project brings these themes together. I first identify and examine the particular epistemic and ontological harms faced by materially-impoverished social outgroups, such as refugees, homeless populations, and those living in poverty in otherwise wealthy nations. I argue that the epistemic and ontological exclusion of these groups facilitates the deepening of existing prejudices, negative bias, and substantive material harm towards populations who are already at severe risk of impoverishment and human rights abuses. These groups tend to be overlooked by analyses of epistemic injustice but, I suggest, their examination also offers broader important insights into both the mechanism of epistemic injustice and the possibilities for justice.

And from this groundwork of understanding the nature of testimonial injustice and epistemic exclusion, I then move on to investigate alternative ways to prevent these harms from occurring. I focus, in particular, on how the excluded might act in the face of their own oppression, rather than relying on the epistemic virtue of dominant knowers and institutions. I introduce and analyse the moral permissibility and practicality of an umbrella form of epistemic resistance undertaken by marginalised knowers, which relies on intentionally manipulating the cognitive biases of dominant knowers. In doing so, I introduce the novel concepts of epistemic nudging and epistemic salespersonship.


  • ‘How Might Financial Aid form a part of the Negative Duty Not to Harm, in the Case of Global Poverty?’. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, vol. cxviii, part 3 (2018), pp. 1-10.
  • ‘The Curious Case of Ronald McDonald’s Claim to Rights: An Ontological Account of Differences in Group and Individual Person Rights’. The Journal of Social Ontology, vol. 4, iss. 1 (2018), pp. 1-28.
  • ‘Suggestions and Challenges for a Social Account of Sensitivity’. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective, vol. 5, no. 6 (2016), pp. 18-26.

Presented papers (* indicates 'by invitation')

“Epistemic resistance”

  • Plurality in Philosophy and Beyond: 10th International Conference of the German Society for Analytic Philosophy (GAP 10). The University of Cologne (Germany). Sep 2018.

“Just epistemic resistance: epistemic ethics in context”

  • Legitimate Injustice and Just Resistance workshop panel; invited speaker. Sep 2018.*

“Epistemic nudging”

  • Current Trends in Social Epistemology conference. University of Melbourne (Australia). Aug 2018.

“Epistemic injustice and the tools of the oppressor”

  • Contemporary Issues Across Ethics & Epistemology conference. University of Pavia (Italy). June 2018.
  • IX Braga Meetings on Ethics and Political Philosophy. University of Minho (Portugal). June 2018.

“Nudging and epistemic paternalism: their value in promoting, not undermining, epistemic freedom of choice”

  • 7th WFAP Graduate Conference: ‘Rationality and Democracy’; invited speaker. University of Vienna (Austria). June 2018. *

“Epistemic objectification: the possibility of resistance under conditions of exclusion”

  • Postgraduate colloquium: invited speaker. University of Melbourne (Australia). May 2018.*

“Epistemic resistance: individual and collective permissibility”

  • MANCEPT seminar series invited speaker. University of Manchester (UK). May 2018.*

“Povertyism, media bias, and epistemic harm”

  • CeASR Social Change interdisciplinary seminar series; invited speaker. Leeds Beckett University (UK). May 2018.*

“Just resistance: the permissibility of epistemic nudging in overcoming epistemic harm”

  • Injustice, Resistance, and Progress conference. LSE (UK); co-sponsored with the Jean Beer Blumenfeld Center for Ethics, US. Jun 2018.
  • Moral Epistemology conference. ACU Melbourne (Australia). May 2018.
  • 2018 Oxford Graduate Conference in Political Theory. University of Oxford (UK). Apr 2018.

“Injustice, insight, and resistance”

  • LSE Fourth Political Theory Graduate Conference. LSE (UK). Mar 2018.

“Epistemic exclusion and resistance under austerity”

  • Department of Philosophy guest speaker. King’s College London (UK). November 2017.*

“Who is remedially responsible for the harms caused by the global community in the case of global poverty?”

  • MANCEPT Workshops 2017: Collective Agents and Global Structural Injustice (presented as workshop co-convener). University of Manchester (UK). September 2017.*

“Testimonial injustice and epistemic exclusion”.

  • Summer School in Social Epistemology. Autonomous University of Madrid (Spain). August 2017.

“Epistemic objectification and testimonial injustice: a non-instrumentalist account”.

  • The 9th Congress of the European Society for Analytic Philosophy. LMU Munich (Germany). August 2017.

“How might compensation form a part of the negative duty not to harm, in the case of global poverty?”.

  • Postgraduate Session at The Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and Mind Association. University of Edinburgh (UK). July 2017.
  • The 20th Oxford Annual Graduate Philosophy Conference. University of Oxford (UK). November 2016.

“Alleviating global poverty: why the easiest action is also one that is demanded of us”.

  • The Society for Applied Philosophy Annual Conference. Copenhagen (Denmark). June 2017.

“UK austerity measures and epistemic exclusion”.

  • UK Social and Political Inequalities Group: Reflections on 2016: The Politics of Marginalised Groups. University of Manchester (UK). June 2017.

“Povertyism, exclusion, and epistemic objectification”

  • The Vienna Forum for Analytic Philosophy. University of Vienna (Austria). May 2017.*
  • Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) UK: PhilChat 2017. The University of Manchester. April 2017.*

“Individual charitable giving and the negative duty not to harm”.

  • The Ethics of Giving Conference. University of St Andrews (UK). May 2017.

“Global poverty and individual duties”.

  • 5th Stockholm Philosophy Graduate Conference. Stockholm University (Sweden). April 2017.

“The curious case of Ronald McDonald’s rights as a person”.

  • The Stirling Philosophy Society. University of Stirling (UK). November 2016.*
  • The AHRC North West Consortium. University of Keele (UK). December 2016.*

“Performative personhood and shared group agency”.

  • I, You and We Phi: First Cork Annual Workshop on Social Agency. University College Cork (Ireland). October 2016.

 “An ontological account of group-agent / individual-agent differences in responsibilities and rights”.

  • Collective Intentionality X (ISOS). The World Forum, The Hague (Netherlands). August 2016.
  • MANCEPT Workshops 2016: Expanding the Horizon - Collective Moral Agency and Global Justice. University of Manchester (UK). September 2016.

“Suggestions and Challenges for a Social Account of Sensitivity”.

  • Graduate conference in Social Epistemology. University of Tartu (Estonia). March 2016.

Conferences/workshops organised

  • “Collective Agents and Global Structural Injustice”: A MANCEPT 2017 workshop. The University of Manchester. September 2017. Co-convener.
  • The University of Manchester three-part conference series on “Personhood and Selfhood”: A Royal Institute of Philosophy conference series, additionally supported by the AHRC North West Doctoral Training Partnership. The University of Manchester. Forthcoming: January 2018 / April 2018 / July 2018. Co-convener.
  • “PhilChat 2018”: A MAP (Minorities and Philosophy) UK event for undergraduate students. The University of Manchester. March 2018. Co-convener.
  • “Open Minds XIII”: A conference for postgraduate philosophy. The University of Manchester:  Sponsored by the Society for Applied Philosophy, the Mind Association, the Aristotelian Society, and UoM. August 2018. Co-convener.
  • The Philosophy PhD seminar series. The University of Manchester. Held weekly during term-time. Originator and convener 2016/17; co-convener 2017/18; 2018/19.
  • The University of Manchester Philosophy Reading Party. Convener 2017; co-convener 2018.


2018/19: Introduction to Political Philosophy (second semester); History of Philosophy (second semester).

2017/18: Critical Thinking (first semester); Intro to Metaphysics and Epistemology (second semester).

External prizes/conference funding

Awarded the Tilburg Center for Logic, Ethics, and Philosophy of Science (TiLPS) Visiting Fellowship (taken up Sep-Nov 2018).

Awarded the Harry Lesser Teaching Prize (University of Manchester), Aug 2018.

First prize in the 2016 Essay Competition of the International Social Ontology Society (ISOS) for my paper: “The Curious Case of Ronald McDonald’s Rights as a Person: An Ontological Account of Differences in Group and Individual Person Rights”.

Competitively awarded conference paper presenter bursaries for accommodation / travel and / or registration fees from various bodies for: the University of Melbourne conference on Social Epistemology; the MANCEPT annual workshops in Sep 2016 and Sep 2018; the Postgraduate session of the Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association in Jul 2017; University of Tartu conference on Social Epistemology (Estonia), Mar 2016.

Conference organisation funding awards

Royal Institute of Philosophy postgrad conference funding award for a series of conferences on aspects of Personhood and Selfhood. Co-prepared and submitted.

AHRC North West Doctoral Training Partnership funding award for a series of conferences on aspects of Personhood and Selfhood. Prepared and submitted with Professor Sorin Baiasu (Keele University).

Society for Applied Philosophy funding award for the Applied Philosophy stream of Open Minds XIII, the UoM Philosophy graduate conference.

Mind Association funding award for Open Minds XIII, the UoM Philosophy graduate conference.

Aristotelian Society funding award for Open Minds XIII, the UoM Philosophy graduate conference.

Other information

My work is generously funded by a doctoral studentship award from The University of Manchester.

Prior to my PhD, I read PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) at the University of Oxford, graduating in 2015, and studied the MLitt in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, awarded with Distinction in 2016.

Even more prior, I had a career as a programme director and strategy consultant, primarily working in banking and retail.

Alongside my research, I am an administrator for The Mind Association; editorial assistant at the journal Global Justice: Theory, Practice, Rhetoric; a Manchester Access Programme tutor; and a MAP (Minorities and Philosophy) UK mentor. I also regularly speak at schools, colleges and other access events on my research. Please feel free to contact me in respect of any of these roles.

From September 2018 to November 2018 I will be taking up a funded Visiting Fellowship at The Tilburg Center for Logic, Ethics, and Philosophy of Science at the University of Tilburg (Netherlands).


To contact Leonie Smith, please use the following email: