Please join us in congratulating Dr. Laura Hand, Assistant Professor in the Master of Public Administration Program (CoBPA) & Master of Public Health Program (School of Medicine and Health Sciences) for her recent paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Administrative Theory & Praxis.
Title: “A Virtuous Hearer: An Exploration of Epistemic Injustice and an Ethic of Care in Public Encounters”
Authors: Laura C. Hand, Assistant Professor, Political Science & Public Administration, and the Master of Public Health Program
Journal of Administrative Theory & Praxis – JQL Level 2
Public encounters, the interactions between public frontline employees and the people they serve, are one of the primary ways in which citizens directly experience the state. Research has long demonstrated that frontline employees must cope with inflexible bureaucratic rules and red tape, large caseloads, and limited resources, often resulting in inefficient or inequitable treatment of citizens. However, an oft-ignored part of this relationship between the state and its citizens is the interpersonal interaction and whether characteristics of that interaction can inflict or reduce harm or potential harm often found in public encounters. This research examines interactions between frontline employees and program participants in Arizona’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), focusing on one type of potential harm, epistemic injustice. This type of harm happens when bias exists on the part of the frontline employee, resulting a negative judgment of the citizen, which increases the probability for unjust treatment. The research identifies frontline employee practices of a “virtuous hearer,” which include being responsive to WIC participants’ feelings, eliminating negative talk, and demonstrating empathy. There is evidence that these practices mitigate, although do not necessarily eliminate epistemic injustice in these public encounters.