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Reflective Essays

Vol. 27 No. 3

The Perils of Expert Privilege: Analyzing, Understanding, and Reimagining Expertise in University–Community–Societal Relations

October 12, 2020


The democratization of knowledge is liberating and has presented some new and difficult challenges. When everyone can position themselves as an expert, how do we create new frames of intellectual and pragmatic knowledge with integrity? How do we understand the histories of expert privilege and harm that have led us to this time of uncertainty? And finally, how do we work productively across different types of expertise to ensure that community voice, academic voice, and professional voice (and the overlapping nexus within) connect for epistemic and social justice? In this article, we explore the harm and capacity to dehumanize through expert privilege and focus on economics as a disciplinary case study. We critically examine the factors that often lead to dehumanizing practices, interrogate where our own power and privilege need to be checked and understood, and articulate/imagine community engagement practices that might bring about epistemic justice as a reparative opportunity.