Bipolar in the Academy: A Case of Testimonial Smothering




bipolar, epistemic injustice, testimonial smothering, Madness, Mad Studies, passing


This paper explores my active suppression of my bipolar identity as a case of “testimonial smothering” (Dotson, 2011) in the academy. Dotson theorizes testimonial smothering as a distinctly epistemic injustice. I explicate concepts of epistemic injustice—both testimonial and hermeneutical injustice (Fricker, 2007)—and testimonial smothering and argue that the pervasive nature of stereotypes and overarching discourses about Madness in society may lead a person who identifies as Mad to smother their identity. Following a discussion of the ways that people who identify as Mad are subject to epistemic injustice that wrongs them in their capacity as knowers, I point to the necessity of being understood as a “knower” in academia. Subsequently, I argue that having to “pass” as sane constitutes epistemic violence and further explore the distinctly hermeneutical dimensions of the injustice that shapes the often invisibility of Mad people in the academy. Discussion about the complexities of decisions about passing and disclosure follows. I ultimately assert that visibility and representation of Mad people and the recognition of the epistemic value of Mad perspectives are crucial to moving forward.




How to Cite

Hess, J. (2024). Bipolar in the Academy: A Case of Testimonial Smothering. Disability Studies Quarterly, 43(2).



Neurodiversity, Past and Present