Narrative as a Resource for Feminist Practices of Socially Engaged Inquiry: Mayra Montero’s In the Palm of Darkness

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Against the view that the physical sciences should be the privileged source of reliable knowledge within the academy in general, and in philosophy in particular, this essay argues that an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge-production, one that includes social and psychological assessment as well as narrative analysis, can better capture the diverse range of human epistemic activities as they occur in their natural settings. Postpositivist epistemologies, including Lorraine Code’s social naturalism, Satya Mohanty’s and Paula Moya’s postpositivist literary and pedagogical projects, and Linda Alcoff’s dialogical template for knowledge form the basis of a revised naturalized epistemology that is more accountable to a socially engaged inquiry. This revised naturalism shifts orientation from the idealized setting of the laboratory and its a priori conditions for knowledge to localized settings, where knowledge emerges out of diverse contextualized interpretations of the natural and social world that interlocutors produce as they dialogue with one another. Mayra Montero’s neocolonial narrative thematizes the spatial shift of scientific activity, showing how epistemic authority, aligned with North American interests and regional identity, is established, withheld from others, and contested.