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.

I identify as bipolar—a fact I am not ashamed of and yet also something I have hid my entire professional life. Some years ago, I read Miranda Fricker's (2007) work on epistemic injustice—the wronging of someone in their capacity as a knower. My own epistemology and knowing is profoundly shaped by bipolar, and yet I have systematically suppressed that dimension of my knowing for my working life. My suppression is akin to what Kristie Dotson (2011) calls "testimonial smothering." In this paper, I engage with notions of epistemic injustice and testimonial smothering to theorize my experience of suppressing my bipolar identity in the academy. I reflect on the importance of visibility and representation of individuals with so-called "invisible" identities and further consider what it might mean to have more Mad and neurodiverse representation in the academy from an epistemological and representational perspective.

My history of bipolar dates back more than 25 years. After a year-and-a-half of intense suicidality, I was diagnosed with bipolar at the age of 18. My straight-As in school masked a severe depression that almost took my life. In the context of my family history, the diagnosis seemed to fit. This history meant that by the time I was diagnosed, I had read a lot about bipolar—autobiographies, some of Kay Redfield Jamison's work, and a folder full of newspaper clippings given to me by one of my high school math teachers. After I was diagnosed, I stopped reading. I am not genuinely sure why—perhaps because much of what I encountered in popular media sources scared me. Perhaps not.

At the beginning, I was fairly forthcoming about that aspect of my identity. I felt that my cycles in my late teens and early twenties were recognizable and was still subject to the gender socialization that compelled me to provide an explanation when I felt one was needed. By the time I attended undergrad at a Faculty of Music, however, I limited my disclosure to the people whom I perceived my behavior affected. At that time, I was heavily medicated and for several months, I was on a medication which required 15 hours of sleep a day. I slept everywhere that fall—any available bench in between classes and (not so) occasionally during class. The excessive sleeping meant I told three professors about the limitations on my work. The impossibility of managing a music student schedule while sleeping 15 hours a day will not be lost on anyone who has completed a music degree. The medication seemed worse than the "problem." In undergrad, I was still relatively forthcoming with friends, but as I moved through my degree, I got quieter about it. Midway through my undergraduate degree, Sally Field appeared in a cameo on ER, a television show I watched routinely, as Abby's bipolar mother. Her representation of Maggie matched every stereotype I had encountered over the years, While I had (and have) zero shame about being bipolar and consider it an important part of my identity, I became aware of how society understood and viewed bipolar and became much more reticent with disclosure.

I have always been attentive to what I call "bipolar slurs." They happen frequently and have been a part of every professional environment in which I have participated, and many social situations as well. In a "bipolar slur," people will use the term to describe someone pejoratively, to define a phenomenon that is out of control, or to provide a label for a person that they deem "difficult" without any knowledge of their history. In common parlance, "bipolar" is used disparagingly. In LGBTQ discourse, the dialogue has moved somewhat away from safe spaces toward safe people (Nichols, 2016). The ubiquitous nature of "bipolar slurs" have made me much more reticent to disclose and have also made apparent people to whom disclosing would not be "safe."

As I transitioned from undergrad into working with children and youth as a music teacher, I stopped disclosing altogether. At age 23, I knew all the stereotypes that word invoked and very much feared being perceived as less than competent, or worse, unfit to work with young people. Rather than give colleagues an opportunity to judge me, I began hiding what I still consider to be a crucial part of my identity. Over the years, I have grappled with much suicidality, severe bouts of depression, pockets of hypomania, mixed states, one severe mania, and periods of stability. Even at the worst of times, I have hidden these experiences in my professional life.

When I finished graduate school, I transitioned to a visiting professor position in higher education followed by a tenure-track position at my current institution two years later. The precarity of these positions, pre-tenure, led me to continue to suppress my identity. I again heard "bipolar slurs" predominantly used to describe "difficult" people and kept my mouth shut about my own identity. By that time, the suppression was automatic. I knew that bipolar stereotypes strongly shape public understandings. As a newly-minted assistant professor, I feared that disclosure would lead to being perceived as incompetent, erratic, and not dependable, or having my behavior judged as bipolar when it may or may not be. I perceived that the label would inevitably shape perceptions of my legitimacy in the academy and I wanted to avoid that at all costs. On the occasions that I did disclose, I have had my high levels of productivity attributed to bipolar, when, in fact, I engage many different strategies to avoid a mania when I feel it, and that includes strict limitations on work. While being bipolar undoubtedly comprises a core part of my identity, I have always refused to trust that others will not stereotype me for it, and thus, tightly controlled any disclosure.

As I reflect upon the habitual concealment of a vital part of my identity, I realize that I no longer wish to hide. Having just received tenure and as much job security as is possible given the state of the neoliberal university in conditions that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, I would like to begin to bring my whole self to my position. I am who I am because I am bipolar and not despite it.

A Note on Language: Madness and Mad Studies

I use the term "Mad" throughout this paper as a way of "claiming disability" (Linton, 1998) and "reclaiming madness" (Russo, 2001, 2016) as a political identity. Reclaiming language that has been used in a derogatory way can serve as a mechanism of empowerment (Clare, 1999; Linton, 1998; Spandler & Poursanidou, 2019). I also use the term as a way to participate in Mad Studies (see for example Beresford & Russo, 2022; LeFrançois et al., 2013; Russo & Sweeney, 2016). Language describing Madness includes terms like mental illness, survivor, service user, mental health, neurodiversity, people with experiences of mental and emotional distress (Carver et al., 2017), or individuals who experience mental disorder (Sullivan, 2019). There are, thus, a broad range of terms associated with such experiences. Faulkner (2001) notes that "[l]anguage can broaden and describe so much better than it can abbreviate and classify. It seems to me that we need more words rather than less to describe experiences" (pp. 7-8). Moreover, mental illness descriptors often take a person-first approach (Titchkosky, 2001), separating the person from Madness and thus potentially implying negative associations with Madness, as opposed to an identity-first approach. I identify as bipolar, not as a person living with bipolar, and for political purposes, align myself with others who are Mad-identified. Like Cavar and Baril (2021), I "capitalize 'Mad' as a reclaimed identity and movement/field of study in order to distinguish it from the use of 'mad' as a common adjective."

I note, however, that this move to claim or reclaim Madness is contested among people with experiences of Madness and/or distress, as people with different degrees of privilege and oppression can make reappropriation of this term challenging and impossible for some people—particularly people who are multiply minoritized. Many people do not wish to—or have the privilege to be able to—identify as Mad, given its negative connotations (Beresford, 2022; Gorman et al., 2013; Russo, 2022; Sharma, 2022). The language of Madness is purposefully politicized. Employing such language could prove dangerous for people who also encounter violence and oppression at the intersections of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, cissexism, ableism, and beyond. Furthermore, people who experience intersecting oppressions are also more likely to have coercive encounters with psy-systems that white Mad people may not experience (Gorman et al., 2013). By claiming Madness myself, therefore, I recognize that this move is not always desirable or even a possibility for others.

Nonetheless, embracing Madness can be a way of reclaiming identity (Russo, 2001, 2016) and further offers a mechanism for politicization. Spandler and Poursanidou (2019) observed that Mad Studies aims to unsettle negative associations with the term "Mad" and also acts to reclaim and politicize it, in alignment with the reclamation and politicization of terms such as "Queer," "Fat," and "Crip." They argue that the move toward reclamation is crucial, as Madness is commonly construed as persistently negative and dangerous. Reclamation, then, may be subversive. Importantly, "Mad" is not constructed as an essentialized identity, but rather a political category of critique and resistance, signified by the capitalization of the term and similar to terms like Queer, Deaf, Black, etc. (p. 4). Following Spandler and Poursanidou, I consider the use of the terms "Mad" and "Madness" not only as acts of reclaiming and to participate in Mad Studies, but as a mechanism of critique and resistance. I also fully acknowledge that these terms may be legitimately uncomfortable or dangerous for some people with experiences of Madness and distress.

The move toward reclamation relates directly to identity politics. Mobilizing identity politics in relation to disability (inclusive of Madness) can operate as a means of organizing (Siebers, 2008). Viewing disability as a minoritized identity (Siebers, 2008) therefore presents an opportunity for political engagement on the basis of identity, providing an essentialized coherence to an identity that is disparate. Spivak (Spivak & Rooney, 1993) discusses the use of strategic essentialism or the possibility of eliding disparate identities to accomplish a political goal. In other words, it may be appropriate, at times, to collapse intersectional identities under the category of disability or Madness to make progress. Doing so, however, must not erase the way that oppression related to Madness disproportionately adversely affects Mad people of color (see for example King, 2016, 2022; Meerai et al., 2016). An approach of Spivak's strategic essentialism to the politicization of both language and identity, nonetheless, further allows for the focus on the way that structures and barriers in society disable (Oliver & Sapey, 1999), as opposed to a medical approach that pathologizes the mind and the body (Linton, 1998). As such, reclamation and mobilizing identity politics facilitate a push toward the transformation of what Nick Walker (2021) refers to as the "pathology paradigm." Such transformation is central to Mad Studies.

Mad Studies blends activism, scholarship, and theory to center the lived experiences of people who identify as Mad or who use another descriptor (Beresford & Russo, 2022; Costa, 2014; LeFrançois et al., 2013; Russo & Sweeney, 2016). It emerged from the consumer/survivor movements and crucially rejects bio-medical approaches to "mental illness" (Beresford, 2020). People who identify as Mad have typically been excluded from bio-medical discourse and research (LeFrançois et al., 2013) and any academic research conducted about their experiences (Russo & Beresford, 2015). Mad Studies seeks to recenter Mad voices and offer a critique of biomedical, psychiatric, and clinical systems of power and knowledge related to Madness (Beresford & Russo, 2022; LeFrançois et al., 2013; Russo & Sweeney, 2016). In doing so, Mad Studies situates medical models of Madness within a historical trajectory. It starkly reveals the context, history, and oppression related to Madness and distress. Mad movements aimed to reclaim Mad knowledge and experiences from psy-professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. (LeFrançois et al., 2013; Menzies et al., 2013) and resist medicalized and pathologizing notions of Madness and distress. Indeed, Ingram coined the term "in/discipline" in 2008 to describe Mad Studies. The idea of an in/discipline works to maintain the unruliness and subversiveness of Madness (Ingram, 2016)—to not only "show the method in our madness" but to preserve "the madness in our method" (Ingram, 2016, p. 14). Functioning partially as an aspect of the strong tradition of the anti-psychiatry movement and survivors' movement (Beresford, 2020; Burstow et al., 2014), Mad Studies offers a powerful mechanism to reclaim a minoritized identity and celebrate it—a move I work to make in regard to my own Mad identity.

Mad Studies further has epistemic implications and identifies the ways in which Mad people have been excluded as knowers, positioning psychiatry as a mechanism of epistemic violence. Part II of LeFrançois et al. (2013) points to the epistemic cracks between the dominance of psychiatry and Mad activism. In psychiatric contexts, "certain persons or groups within society are disqualified as legitimate knowers at a structural level through various institutional processes and practices" (Liegghio, 2013, p. 123). This lens on epistemic violence provides an important mechanism for me to consider my own suppression of my Mad identity through "testimonial smothering" (Dotson, 2011), and also offers a path toward reclamation.

Conceptualizing Epistemic Injustice: The Work of Miranda Fricker

Miranda Fricker (2007) conceptualizes two forms of epistemic injustice—testimonial injustice and hermeneutical injustice—two distinctively epistemic ways that people can be wronged in their capacity as a knower (p. 1). She asserts: "Testimonial injustice occurs when prejudice causes a hearer to give a deflated level of credibility to a speaker's word" (p. 1). Testimonial injustice thus turns on the question of a credibility deficit. Hermeneutical injustice, however, involves "a gap in collective interpretive resources [which] puts someone at an unfair disadvantage when it comes to making sense of their social experiences" (p. 1). Hermeneutical injustice therefore occurs before testimony is formulated and might also prevent the formulation of testimony. Much of Fricker's argument relies on the notion of social identities and social power—the way that particular (group and individual) identities are perceived by the listeners. Crucially, for Fricker, epistemic injustice occurs in a communication exchange of some sort, in which the speaker does not receive appropriate credit for their knowledge and/or contribution. In other words, in the case of testimonial injustice, a speaker is denied the credibility they deserve due to the prejudice of the listener. In the case of hermeneutical injustice, the collective resources required for them to make their experience intelligible to another are absent, owing to the suppression of such resources, particularly in relation to minoritized groups' experiences. What Fricker calls identity power relates to oppression and shapes these injustices. Identity power operates at the level of the "collective social imagination" (p. 15) and shapes the actions of individuals, at times in spite of held beliefs (p. 15).

In the case of testimonial injustice, Fricker argues that stereotypes vastly shape this collective social imagination and can significantly impact listeners' views of the credibility of the speaker. For Fricker, stereotypes are "widely held associations between a given social group and one or more attributes" (p. 30, emphasis in original). When a stereotype, then, works against the speaker in some way, the hearer may unjustly engage a deflated judgement of the speaker's credibility, thus wronging the speaker in their capacity as a knower (p. 17). Fricker points explicitly to the unethical nature of such epistemic injustice. She explains that when testimonial injustice occurs, the hearer likely holds what she calls a "negative identity prejudice" (p. 35). Combining this concept with the idea of a stereotype formulates a "negative identity-prejudicial stereotype" (p. 35): "A widely held disparaging association between a social group and one or more attributes, where this association embodies a generalization that displays some (typically, epistemically culpable) resistance to counter-evidence owing to an ethically bad affective investment" (p. 35, emphasis in original). These stereotypes or widely-held disparaging associations strongly impact listeners' perceptions of the credibility of the speaker. Moreover, Fricker further argues that wronging someone in their capacity as a knower symbolically degrades someone as a human being.

The occurrence of testimonial injustice thus relies on the actions and prejudice of the listener in a communication exchange. Hearers, she asserts, must consider the identity power that operates on their assessment of the speaker (p. 91). In situating the responsibility with the hearer, Fricker takes an individualistic approach to a systemic problem, asking hearers to critically assess the stereotypes they have absorbed from the collective social imagination and account for them when making credibility judgements. In so doing, a hearer can enact "testimonial justice" by "neutralizing prejudice in one's credibility judgements" (p. 122). The role of the hearer thus overdetermines the commission of testimonial injustice and the correction—testimonial justice—then occurs at the level of the individual rather than any form of systemic change. Importantly, for Fricker, within relations of social power, a "preemptive testimonial injustice" could function as a "mechanism of silencing" that means that groups with less social power may not be asked to contribute their perspectives (p. 131), thus leading to hermeneutical injustice.

Fricker (2007) describes hermeneutical injustice as a second form of epistemic injustice. Hermeneutical injustice is "the injustice of having some significant area of one's social experience obscured from collective understanding owing to persistent and wide-ranging hermeneutical marginalization (p. 154, emphasis in original) or "owing to a structural identity prejudice in the collective hermeneutical resource" (p. 155, emphasis in original). She notes that hermeneutical injustice is structural; it operates without an agent (p. 159). She uses the example of sexual harassment before there was a name for it as a phenomenon that was experienced but unnamable. A gap existed in the hermeneutic resources to describe what was occurring, perpetuating a very specific kind of epistemic injustice. Not being able to name something one experiences can also affect one's status as a knower. In incidental cases, this gap may be a one-off. In more systematic cases, however, the lacuna may be "generated by a structural identity prejudice in the hermeneutical repertoire" (p. 168).

In other words, constant discrimination against people in minoritized groups might prevent them from contributing to hermeneutical resources that might help them make sense of their experience. Before the term "microaggression" existed and was theorized (see for example Pierce, 1970; Pierce et al., 1978; Sue, 2010; Sue et al., 2007), people who experienced "subtle, stunning, often automatic, and nonverbal exchanges which are 'put downs'" (Pierce et al., 1978, p. 66) in the context of everyday exchanges could not necessarily communicate the cumulative impact of the onslaught of denigrating messages they received. Having the term "microaggression" in the collective hermeneutical resources allows those who experience them a way to name and resist them. Having this experience without this term, however, likely exacerbates it. Moreover, lacking a term to describe this phenomenon before Pierce's (1970) work was likely owing to a structural identity prejudice in the hermeneutical repertoire. People in dominant groups did not experience this phenomenon to the same degree as minoritized groups, making a term to describe such experiences unnecessary for people with privilege. Gaps in hermeneutical resources therefore occur far more related to the experiences of minoritized individuals than for dominant groups and this includes people who experience Madness and/or distress. For the purposes of this paper, I consider both testimonial and hermeneutical injustice and how they operate in my own experience.

Testimonial Smothering: A Particular Kind of Epistemic Violence

Within her theorizing, Fricker proposes the possibility of pre-emptive testimonial injustice. She asserts, "[t]his kind of testimonial injustice takes place in silence. It occurs when hearer prejudice does its work in advance of a potential informational exchange: it pre-empts any such exchange" (p. 130). For Fricker, this form of testimonial injustice occurs when hearer prejudice prevents a person's testimony from being solicited, perhaps because of purported unreliability or assumed irrelevance. Pre-emptive testimonial injustice, however, may also occur when a knower recognizes how their credibility is understood by a potential hearer and makes a coerced choice to suppress it. I argue that such pre-emptiveness occurs frequently in relation to Mad identity, and certainly within my own experience. Kristie Dotson (2011) elaborates two distinct possibilities of pre-emptive testimonial injustice that result in silencing.

Dotson (2011) explores instances and practices of silencing through which oppressed groups experience silencing in giving testimony. Such silencing, she argues, constitutes epistemic violence. In ideal conditions, communication exchanges occur as reciprocal; individuals "recognize one another's speech as it is meant to be taken" (p. 237). In conditions of reciprocity, the speaker is understood in the way they intend to be understood. Dotson points to ways that dominant groups deny particular populations such reciprocity, and in so doing, commit epistemic violence. In such communicative interactions, pernicious ignorance on the part of the hearer prevents reciprocity (p. 239). Importantly, this denial of reciprocity requires no ill intent. Dotson describes two practices of silencing: testimonial quieting and testimonial smothering. Both moves result in epistemic violence. For the purposes of this paper, I briefly explain how she defines testimonial smothering.

For Dotson, testimonial smothering occurs when the speaker perceives their audience as unwilling or unable to understand and respond to the testimony as the speaker intends. Upon assessing the audience in this way, the speaker truncates "one's own testimony in order to insure that the testimony contains only content for which one's audience demonstrates testimonial competence" (p. 244). She describes three circumstances that facilitate this smothering of testimony:

1) the content of the testimony must be unsafe and risky; 2) the audience must demonstrate testimonial incompetence with respect to the content of the testimony to the speaker; and 3) testimonial incompetence must follow from, or appear to follow from, pernicious ignorance. (p. 244)

As a result of these conditions, the speaker elects to "smother" their own testimony—a form of "coerced silencing" (p. 244). In this case, "unsafe testimony" can be understood as testimony that a listener may fail to find fully intelligible, that in so doing may lead to inaccurate beliefs that could cause social, political, and/or material harm (p. 244). Upon assessing this potential, the speaker may omit aspects of their testimony that may be considered unsafe or risky in order to avoid any potential harm. In other words, the speaker engages in a coerced self-censoring. Dotson's second circumstance occurs when the audience for the testimony demonstrates testimonial incompetence in relation to the content of the testimony. Testimonial competence, conversely, occurs when the speaker assesses the audience's ability to both find the testimony intelligible or detect the inaccuracies in their own comprehension. When the speaker believes the audience to be testimonially incompetent, they may smother their testimony in order not to experience at minimum, disbelief, or more likely, harm or violence of some variety. Dotson identifies the many negative "controlling images" (Collins, 2000) of Black men in the U.S. and points to the ways that related testimony may reinscribe these images. Mad people too are subject to controlling images and stereotypes, as I discuss below. The presence of controlling images may lead a potential speaker to decide that an audience demonstrates testimonial incompetence. The third circumstance identifies the source of the testimonial incompetence as pernicious ignorance. Such ignorance often leads to the hearer failing to find the speaker's testimony accurately intelligible.

These three circumstances intersect in ways that may encourage a speaker to smother their own testimony, limiting their speech to content for which they believe their audience will demonstrate testimonial competence. In so doing, they may smother important elements of their testimony. Testimonial smothering occurs when the speaker assesses that their audience demonstrates testimonial incompetence and this assessment may involve an assumption on the part of the speaker. Importantly, for Dotson, an audience must only give the appearance of being unable to find the testimony accurately intelligible. Dotson argues that testimonial smothering meets the conditions for epistemic violence, as "defined as a failure of an audience to communicatively reciprocate, either intentionally or unintentionally, in linguistic exchanges owing to pernicious ignorance" (p. 250). Dotson's elaboration of testimonial injustice to identify testimonial quieting and testimonial smothering points to the ways that epistemic violence can follow from epistemic injustice through practices of silencing. Moreover, Baril (2020) employs Dotson's (2011) conceptualization in a Mad context by pointing to the ways that people may suppress (parts of) their testimonies about being suicidal to "make them more palatable to a certain audience."

Lee (2021) introduces what she calls "anticipatory epistemic injustice" and aims to distinguish it from Dotson's (2011) testimonial smothering. She notes that this form of epistemic injustice identifies wrongs that epistemic agents may incur when they anticipate challenges in the sharing of their testimony. They then potentially suppress their testimony. For Lee, this behavior might encompass "withholding, diminishing, retracting, repudiating, and revising one's own testimony in response to the consequent challenges anticipated" (Lee, 2021, p. 1). Like testimonial smothering (Dotson, 2011), anticipatory epistemic injustice thus involves suppressing or reshaping one's testimony in anticipation of epistemic injustice. Lee (2021) further offers the example of a Mad person considering whether to come out as an example of anticipatory epistemic injustice in operation (p. 3). Unlike testimonial smothering, however, Lee asserts that anticipatory epistemic injustice does not rely on pernicious ignorance, nor is the testimonial suppression necessarily coerced (p. 11). I maintain that my suppression of testimony related to being bipolar in the academy aligns with Dotson's notion of testimonial smothering rather than Lee's (2021) idea of anticipatory epistemic injustice, as it meets her three criteria. While Lee calls into question whether an audience demonstrates testimonial incompetence following from pernicious ignorance, I argue that the presence of "bipolar slurs" I have observed in my interactions suggest that both testimonial incompetence and pernicious ignorance may be at play, or at least that it may be fair to assume they could be operating.

I note here that this form of communication, as conceptualized by Fricker (2007) and Dotson (2011) follows an individualizing orientation. It focuses on person-to-person interaction rather than considering the way that communication itself can be socially organized. Dorothy Smith (1978), for example, clearly maps how speech can be constructed to portray a person as Mad and tactically omit alternative explanations. A Mad person's speech is thus constructed as Mad by others. Smith compellingly argues that communication is more socially organized. Communication can be constructed as between people, but while it may be occurring between individuals, culture, power, privilege, norms, expectations, and dominant discourses shape each communicative act. 1 I thus explore dominant discourses and stereotypes about Madness in the next section in order to consider the larger power structures that shape epistemic injustice and testimonial smothering (Dotson, 2011) in this context.

Epistemic Injustice, Stereotypes, Madness, and the Academy

Stereotypes play a key role in epistemic injustice. Fricker's (2007) original conception discusses in detail ways that what she calls a "negative identity-prejudicial stereotype" may affect someone being received as a knower. At the testimonial level, negative identity-prejudicial stereotypes significantly affect a person's credibility or credibility deficit. When a hearer allows these prejudicial stereotypes to affect their credibility judgements of the speaker, they inflict a harm that is distinctly epistemic; any knowledge offered by the speaker is lost. Crichton et al. (2017) make the important distinction between stereotypes and prejudicial or negative stereotypes in distinguishing whether an epistemic injustice has occurred. They note that people often use stereotypes as heuristic aids in assessing credibility because stereotypes frequently represent reliable generalizations (p. 65). When these stereotypes become negative or prejudicial, however, they can cause epistemic harm to a knower. As stereotypes and negative identity prejudices about Madness and Mad people circulate widely, Mad people are often subject to testimonial injustice (Baylosis, 2019; Bueter, 2019; Carr, 2022; Carver et al., 2017; Crichton et al., 2017; Harcourt, 2021; LeBlanc & Kinsella, 2016; Liegghio, 2013; Russo, 2022; Scrutton, 2017; Speed & Taggart, 2019; Sullivan, 2019; White, 2022).

Recalling Fricker's (2007) distinction between testimonial and hermeneutical injustice, this epistemic harm can occur when a person communicates their truth to others and these others fail to understand this truth as knowledge (testimonial injustice) or when a person works to interpret their experience with the available hermeneutical resources and finds these resources lacking in relation to their experience (hermeneutical injustice). Testimonial injustice typically occurs when a negative stereotype or prejudice results in a hearer ascribing a "credibility deficit" to the speaker (Crichton et al., 2017, p. 66). In such cases, the speaker is not understood as a source of knowledge. Dotson (2012) cautions that this process is more complex as when a person relies on a "generally reliable stereotype," doing so may allow for an understanding of oneself as innocent with appropriate perceptions, even when/if they lead to epistemic harm. Dotson thus warns of the danger of diminishing contributory injustice as what Fricker calls "epistemic bad luck" (p. 38). For Fricker, epistemic bad luck occurs when a stereotype that could be seen as reliable results in epistemic harm but does not implicate the hearer in the harm, rendering them innocent. One of the examples Fricker uses is an honest used car salesperson (p. 42). She argues that a hearer may be excused from disbelieving such an individual because of a reliable stereotype about the dishonesty of used car salespeople. Dotson (2012), however, points to the problematics of rendering someone innocent who has caused epistemic harm. In other words, if a person dismisses the used car salesman as dishonest when that is not the case, Fricker calls that epistemic bad luck, but Dotson argues that such moves can still be culpable, particularly when the person who has been harmed identifies as a member of one or more minoritized groups.

While Fricker (2007) seems to consider questions of injustice and justice at the individual level, Maitra cautions that "what stereotypes are available, how powerful or accessible they are, seems in large part a structural matter" (p. 209). Stereotypes and consequently the questions of epistemic justice or injustice cannot be solely considered at the individual level. While Fricker's call for epistemic justice resides with the hearer accounting for any stereotype operating to affect a credibility judgement they are making, changes at the systemic level may also be required. Considering the structural oppression that Mad people face then becomes important to any systematic discussion of epistemic injustice and Madness.


At the structural level, sanism—"the systematic subjugation and oppression of people who have received 'mental health' diagnoses, or who are otherwise perceived to be 'mentally ill' (Perlin, 1992, 2003; Poole et al., 2012)" (LeBlanc & Kinsella, 2016, p. 62)—often shapes the stereotypes that Mad people encounter in society. Sanism was coined by activist lawyer Mortin Birnbaum and feminist lawyer Florynce Kennedy (Fabris, 2011; LeBlanc & Kinsella, 2016). Michael Perlin (2003), an activist and disability rights lawyer, explicitly connected the nature of sanism as a prejudice to other identity-based prejudices including racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnic bigotry alongside other "isms" (p. 536). Wolframe (2013) uses the term saneism 2 to describe discrimination against both people with a psychiatric diagnosis and people who are perceived to be "mentally ill" who may not have a diagnosis. She notes that the term mentalism is often used synonymously with saneism (see also Fabris, 2011). LeBlanc and Kinsella (2016) note that sanism is "one of the last socially accepted, government-sanctioned forms of systemic discrimination against a large social group" (p. 63). Moreover, it is particularly insidious, as sanism remains "largely invisible, and is self-perpetuating, socially acceptable, and practiced regularly" (LeBlanc & Kinsella, 2016, p. 63). 3 Sanism is thus common and frequently socially sanctioned. Sullivan (2019) notes that sanism is irrational, but also socially prevalent, and results in stigma and negative stereotypes that often go "unnoticed or unacknowledged" (p. 354). While sanism can operate in the form of discrimination and/or microaggressions (Poole et al., 2012), LeBlanc and Kinsella (2016) point to the distinctly epistemic nature of this particular oppression, as this form of oppression often invalidates the epistemic contributions of Mad people. Given the prevalence of sanism, this discourse thus shapes how Mad people may fail to be understood as knowers and further perpetrates the wide circulations of stereotypes.

Stereotypes and Madness

In Black Feminist Thought, Collins (2000) discusses what she calls the "controlling images" that shape how society sees Black women. She describes several stereotypes that negatively affect Black women including the "Mammy", the "Matriarch," the "Welfare Mother," and the "Jezebel." Collins elucidates the way that the media perpetuates these stereotypes through sharing them while simultaneously upholding white standards of beauty and the caste system. The structure for propagating these stereotypes is thus two-fold; controlling images dominate the media, which concurrently valorizes whiteness. Dotson (2011) points to Collins' (2000) discussion of controlling images to identify how they might affect how someone's testimony is understood. She identifies the negative controlling images that circulate about Black men in the United States and argues that testimony about them may run the risk of reinforcing those negative images (p. 247). Similarly, stereotypes and controlling images also pervade discourse about mental illness and Madness (Bueter, 2019; Carver et al., 2017; Corrigan et al., 2010; Crichton et al., 2017; LeBlanc & Kinsella, 2016; Lee, 2021; Scrutton, 2017; Sullivan, 2019; Williams, 2014; Wolframe, 2013). These stereotypes affect the credibility of Mad people (Bueter, 2019; Carver et al., 2017; Crichton et al., 2017; Scrutton, 2017; Sullivan, 2019). Sanism ensures that controlling images about Madness pervade the media, while holding these images in opposition to so-called "normality."

Individuals who identify with experiences of Madness often face pejorative stereotypes. Crichton et al. (2017) observe that "[p]rejudices against people with mental disorders are entrenched in our society in what Fricker calls the 'collective social imagination'" (p. 70). A number of dominant stereotypes about Mad people frame how society understands them. LeBlanc and Kinsella (2016) note that "[s]anist stereotyping fosters a negative perception of Mad persons as delusional, emotionally unstable, unpredictable, untruthful, untrustworthy, lacking all capacity for 'rational' thought, and invariably dangerous to oneself or others (Fabris, 2011; Perlin, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2013; Williams, 2014)" (p. 64). Moreover, stereotypes of Mad people often associate them with risk, danger, unpredictability, and potential for violence (Carver et al., 2017; Mason & Mercer, 2014). Corrigan et al. (2010) observe that these stereotypes often include ideas of incompetence or inability to hold down a job (p. 260). These stereotypes pervade media depictions of people who experience mental and emotional distress and routinely associate them with criminality (Carver et al., 2017). Furthermore, these stereotypes often resist counter-evidence (Crichton et al., 2017) and lead to the stigmatization of people who experience Madness and/or distress.

Individuals with experiences of Madness and/or distress are frequently subject to stigma, which operates as negative associations attached to a particular social group that affects how group members are perceived by society (Crichton et al., 2017). Stigma about Madness due to the prominence of stereotyping may influence how people who identify as Mad discuss or disclose their experiences. Carver et al. (2017) note that stigma "is a process of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination and is very much a moral experience whereby the individual's identity is ear-marked or embodied as tainted, spoiled, or discounted" (p. 51). This "marking" may have a profound effect on how individuals with experiences of Madness navigate the world. Indeed, Corrigan et al. (2010) note that public stigma—"the prejudice and discrimination that emerges when the general population endorses specific stereotypes"—and self-stigma or the "impact of internalizing stigma" (p. 260) both become relevant to considering how members of a group are perceived by society (Crichton et al., 2017). Like other oppressions, individuals may also internalize the stigma and subject themselves to self-stigma (Corrigan et al., 2010). In this context, individuals may believe the stereotypes that circulate about their identities and apply them personally (Carver et al., 2017; Corrigan et al., 2010; Lee, 2021). In such cases,

[t]heir voice is suppressed not only by external influence but also by conditions of rejection, devaluing, and discrediting, which translate into an embodied experience (self-stigma), affecting the individual's belief that they may be legitimate or that they lack agency to fight stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination—this is a truly remarkable example of the power that exists in this context. (Carver et al., 2017, p. 51)

Sanism, as a form of oppression, thus operates as both external oppression and internalized oppression. The latter may result in diminished self-esteem and self-efficacy (Corrigan et al., 2010; Lee, 2021). Stigma and stereotyping are two closely linked processes.

Stereotypes of individuals who have experienced Madness circulate unabated in the public sphere. The dominant group in society thus routinely associates traits and behaviors such as those described above with Madness. Evading these stereotypes becomes difficult as counter-evidence about Madness at the same scale as mass-media is limited or non-existent. Carver et al. (2017) note that people with experiences of Madness and distress have popular associations with riskiness, unpredictability, violence, and dangerousness, which are embedded into public understandings of such experiences. They argue, however, that the falseness of this purported causality fails to be remedied by accurate media portrayals or appropriate moves to address behavior, and are further exacerbated by reductionist explanations of abnormality. Moreover, they assert that the failure to incorporate anti-stigma tenets into policy and legislation may lead to harm. Carver et al. (2017) ultimately eschew the social construction of the "mentally ill" as dangerous, noting that it is "entirely bogus, exaggerated, and serves to misinform the public audience" (p. 48). These false representations of individuals with experiences of Madness pervade popular media and further link "mental illness" to criminality (Carver et al., 2017; Mason & Mercer, 2014). One need only look to the way the media continually shifts the discourse about gun control to discussion of mental illness to understand the link between criminality and mental health in the media. 4 Moreover, counter-evidence of Madness does not exist readily in the public sphere. These dangerous stereotypes and their associated stigma thus often shape decisions around disclosure. Moreover, as a social group, Mad people may experience what Kidd and Carel (2017) call a "tracker prejudice," wherein "the prejudices imposed by the negative stereotype tracks them through different domains of the social world" (p. 177). Upon disclosure or "outing," these prejudices may be difficult to escape. The overrepresentation of these "controlling images" may then lead to epistemic injustice or violence. In this article, I focus on the way that the prevalence of these stereotypes and the resulting stigma and discrimination may lead a Mad person to smother their testimony.

Stereotypes, Madness, Discrimination, and Epistemic Injustice

The easy availability of what Erica Meiners (2001) calls "ready-made images" of Madness act on people who identify as Mad in ways that make them subject to epistemic injustice. Recall that epistemic injustice wrongs individuals in their capacities as knowers (Fricker, 2007). A number of scholars have examined how epistemic injustice shapes the experiences of individuals with mental health diagnoses (Bueter, 2019; Carver et al., 2017; Crichton et al., 2017; Harcourt, 2021; LeBlanc & Kinsella, 2016; Scrutton, 2017; Sullivan, 2019). Importantly, the majority of these discussions take place in the healthcare context where providers do not necessarily perceive individuals with mental health diagnoses as knowers. In cases of testimony, the hearer may construct the speaker as reliable or unreliable based on the social group in which they belong (Carver et al., 2017; Fricker, 2017). Importantly, "negative attitudes towards people with a mental illness may lead to negative stereotypes and to generalisations which are resistant to counter-evidence, owing to what philosopher Miranda Fricker calls an 'ethically bad affective investment'" (Crichton et al., 2017, p. 65). Given the prevalence of sanist stereotypes (LeBlanc & Kinsella, 2016), people who identify as Mad may consistently be subject to epistemic injustice.

In their discussion of illness, Kidd and Carel (2017) draw on Hookway (2010) to identify two forms of epistemic prejudice experienced by people who are ill: participatory prejudice and informational prejudice. Participatory prejudice occurs "when a person or group is prejudicially judged to lack capacities required for having a sense of relevance, and hence as not being suitable participants for collective epistemic activity" (Kidd & Carel, 2017, p. 180, emphasis in original). Informational prejudice transpires "when a person or group is prejudicially judged to lack the ability to provide information relevant in a given context and hence as being an unsuitable participant in collective epistemic activity" (p. 181). While Kidd and Carel's (2017) discussion of epistemic injustice relates to physical illness, participatory and informational prejudice readily occur in mental health contexts that often pathologize patients and fail to consider their perspectives seriously. Kidd and Carel (2017) further note that social groups may be excluded as knowers because their "characteristic expressive style" is not seen as rational (p. 184). These types of prejudices easily lead dominant groups to ascribe a credibility deficit to the testimony of Mad people.

Crichton et al. (2017) describe what they call three global "contributory conditions for epistemic injustice in psychiatric illness." These conditions include: (1) problems directly related to or caused by the "mental disorder"; (2) the emphasis on the perspectives of health professionals or so-called "evidence" over patient accounts; and (3) the detrimental stereotypes about "mental disorders" (p. 67). These three points easily set the conditions for epistemic injustice. These factors shape perceptions of the reliability of a speaker to both speak to and interpret their own experiences resulting in testimonial or hermeneutical injustice (Fricker, 2007).

Multiple scholars argue that Western society, and in particular, the healthcare community, subject individuals with experience of Madness to a credibility deficit, owing in part to the stereotypes that cloud their testimony and interpretation of their experiences (Bueter, 2019; Carver et al., 2017; Crichton et al., 2017; LeBlanc & Kinsella, 2016; Scrutton, 2017; Sullivan, 2019). The "failure to recognize the epistemic value of the perspectives of those living with madness is so entrenched in Western social practices and discourses" (LeBlanc & Kinsella, 2016, p. 61) that listeners are in fact pre-disposed to partially or entirely dismiss the knowledge and perspectives of Mad people (Scrutton, 2017). Carver et al. (2017) describe Mad people as being perceived as having "voices of less eligibility" (p. 50). Mad people may find their perspectives dismissed or not taken seriously as a result of the credibility deficit they experience owing to Madness. They might not only be disbelieved, but also not listened to, or even systematically misinterpreted (Scrutton, 2017). As such, they are wronged in their capacity as knowers; their ability to testify about and interpret their experience and have that knowing received as valuable is greatly diminished by hearer prejudice.

The prevalence of stereotypes and prejudice coupled with the potential for epistemic injustice may make Mad people hesitate to come out about our Mad identities. Disabled people often describe a process of "coming out" similar to the LGBTQQIA+ community (Linton, 1998, p. 21) and the question of coming out emerges for Mad people as well (Corrigan et al., 2010). Mad people routinely navigate whether or not to disclose our experiences of Madness or distress at work or school. As facets of sanism, stigma and discrimination profoundly shape these decisions. Stigma often leads to discrimination, and scholars have noted how stigma related to Madness affects employment (Elraz, 2018; Glover et al., 2010; Lettieri et al., 2021; Martin et al., 2000; Østerud, 2022; Russinova et al., 2011; Stuart, 2006). In a study of public attitudes toward people with "mental illness", Martin et al. (2000) report that 58.1% of people surveyed would prefer not to have a coworker with such experiences (p. 216). Moreover, 50% of employers in the U.S. employers are reluctant to hire a person with a past psychiatric history or with current experiences of depression. 70% of employers would prefer not to hire someone taking antipsychotic medication or with a history of substance abuse. Nearly 25% of employers reported they would fire someone who had not disclosed a mental illness (Stuart, 2006, p. 523). While this research is dated, Fey and Mills (2022) nevertheless find that stigma against mental illness is worsening. Several scholars observe that there are perceptions of dangerousness, unpredictability, unreliability, and instability at play (Lettieri et al., 2021; Martin et al., 2000; Østerud, 2022; Russinova et al., 2011; Sawaf, 2022). Race and gender further complicate experiences of discrimination and any consideration of disclosure must also account for multiple sites of identity oppression (Glover et al., 2010). Stigma and discrimination confound the decision of whether or not to disclose experiences of Madness.

Lee's (2021) work on anticipatory epistemic injustice discusses some of the complexities of considering whether to come out as Mad. Lee writes that a person might be influenced by potential negative reactions from the external world, but may also hold self-stigmas and denigrating self-perceptions that leads to the suppression of one's testimony. These individualized affective factors might further disincentivize the sharing of testimony, leading a person to enact anticipatory epistemic injustice (p. 3). Given the potential for epistemic injustice alongside employment discrimination, it is no wonder that Mad people may turn to "testimonial smothering" (Dotson, 2011) in order to pass as "sane" (Wolframe, 2013). "Understanding certain social groups according to stereotypes that strip them of the ability to be 'uncontroversially" identified as knowers results from and facilitates a type of reliable ignorance" (Dotson, 2011, p. 243). Reacting to such ignorance through smothering one's testimony, however, constitutes violence.

Credibility as a Knower in the Academy

Academia is in the "business" of knowledge production. As such, the question of epistemic injustice becomes significant in the academy, where one's status as a knower matters profoundly. Given that the presence of mental illness can jeopardize one's status as a knower, it is perhaps unsurprising that Mad people might choose to "pass" in the academy. Margaret Price (2011) observes that Mad people who function successfully in academia typically pass the majority of the time. She continues: "Sadly, the necessity of passing for survival perpetuates the conventional view of academe as an 'ivory tower'—an immaculate location humming with mental agility and energy, only occasionally threatened (from the outside) by the destructive force of insanity" (p. 7). She later notes that "[t]hose of us who do hold tenure-track or tenured positions may rely on a strategy of silence in order to protect ourselves" (p. 131). Decisions about passing or coming out may become career-defining. Maria Liegghio (2013) argues that psychiatrization operates as a form of epistemic violence, situated in "the very denial of a person's legitimacy as a knower—their knowledge and their ways of knowing—that renders that person out of existence, unable to be heard and to have their interest count" (p. 124). In an academic environment, legitimacy as a knower remains perhaps the most important form of currency. PhebeAnn Wolframe (2013) notes that she was initially reserved about her history of psychiatrization for fear that if she disclosed, her colleagues and professors may not trust her or would find her less capable.

Fear of stigma and of having my rationality and status as a knower questioned have led me to suppress my very way of knowing the world in order to pass in my professional life. Like Kay Redfield Jamison (1995)—a clinical psychologist who is bipolar and famous for her work on bipolar disorder—"I am tired of hiding, tired of misspent and knotted energies, tired of the hypocrisy, and tired of acting as though I have something to hide" (p. 7). If, as Dotson (2011) argues, testimonial smothering is violence, I am uninterested in continuing to subject myself to it. I refuse to continue to pass when my embodied experience of bipolar profoundly shapes what I offer to academia.

"Passing" as Epistemic Violence

Given the stereotypes associated with bipolar, I felt compelled to hide for my entire professional life—to pass when possible, despite the fact I have no shame about my identity. Society, and its pervasive sanism, provokes shame. Moreover, only hearing the word bipolar used as a pejorative meant I assessed testimonial incompetence among potential hearers (Dotson, 2011), adding to my fear of sharing my identity. I thus enacted testimonial smothering (Dotson, 2011) to protect against what I perceived as prejudice.

"Passing" has a long history among minoritized groups and has been discussed in particular in relation to race. For example, critical race theory scholar Cheryl Harris (1995) begins her article with a narrative about her grandmother's working life. Her grandmother passed as white in the working (white) world. Harris' argument about whiteness as property draws upon this experience of passing to demonstrate that whiteness is a valuable commodity and her grandmother's story is not unique. Passing as a member of the dominant group thus allows access to the social, cultural, and economic capital available to that group.

Passing also has a long history in relation to disability. Much of the literature in disability studies related to passing draws on Goffman's (1963) famous work on stigma, impression management, and "spoiled identities" (Brune & Wilson, 2013; Cureton, 2018; Evans, 2017; Michalko, 1998; Miller et al., 2019; Olney & Brockelman, 2003; Siebers, 2004). Scholars, however, also criticize Goffman's (1963) work for its universalist assumptions (Brune & Wilson, 2013; Frank, 1988) and a focus on personal encounters over accounting for the larger structural forces at play (Brune & Wilson, 2013; Gleeson, 1999). Others have criticized his work for being "so broadly inclusive that it loses boundary and specificity of content" (Murphy et al., 1988, p. 235). 5 Drawing on Goffman (1963) nonetheless allows for the consideration of the kinds of impression management that people with disabilities engage to mask, conceal, or cover a disability or, conversely, to disclose or uncover (Evans, 2017). Passing as non-disabled is a common phenomenon, although it has both benefits and drawbacks (Cureton, 2018). Indeed, Garland Thomson (1996) argues that "pressures to deny, ignore, normalize, and remain silent about one's own disability are both compelling and seductive in a social order intolerant of deviations from the bodily standards enforced by a quotidian matrix of economic, social, and political forces" (p. xvii). Society thus exerts significant pressure to adhere to social norms, making passing a "compelling and seductive" option.

Indeed, people with disabilities may have any number of practical reasons for passing or concealing a disability. Participants in Olney and Brockelman's (2003) study elucidated multiple rationales for doing so. These included: (1) fear they would not be believed to have a disability; (2) fear of being perceived as less competent; (3) fear they would not be perceived as consistent and trustworthy; and (4) fear of being perceived as needy rather than as a peer who can also provide support (p. 48). Deciding whether to disclose a disability, then, remains tricky to navigate. Many people with disabilities choose to conceal their impairment for a range of reasons such as fear of stigma (Boucher, 2017; Evans, 2017; Sierra-Zarella, 2005), concern that they will be accused of "faking it" (Cureton, 2018; Olney & Brockelman, 2003; Samuels, 2003; Sierra-Zarella, 2005), or fear of being met with low expectations (Cureton, 2018). While people with experiences of Madness and distress do not necessarily consider such experiences a disability (Hess, in production), the literature on passing in disability studies certainly applies to the consideration of passing or disclosure. People who identify of Mad might particularly fear Olney and Brockelman's (2003) second and third point and worry about being perceived as less competent or trustworthy if they were to disclose. Such fears certainly shaped my own disclosure decisions.

In the context of Madness and distress, passing is successful when others do not perceive a person is distressed (Cox, 2013). Cox (2013) notes that passing as sane requires comprehensive understanding of the behaviors that signify mental health in one's community, as such behaviors vary across both communities and sites of identity. The criteria for passing as sane thus remain widely variable and depend on the public's perceptions of "acting appropriately" and maintaining social norms for one's specific gender, race, class, sexual identity, etc. (p. 105). Passing as "sane" or "neurotypical" then requires adhering to the range of social norms structuring a person's intersecting identities. Disclosing Madness or distress may also become easier when one adheres to these social norms. Moreover, Evans (2017) observes that people with invisible and intermittent impairments experience the widest range of possibilities for managing stigma, as they may more easily choose between disclosure, partial disclosure, or concealing their impairment. In regard to experiences of Madness and distress, Price (2015) asserts that such disabilities are neither "visible" or "invisible," but rather "intermittently apparent" (p. 272). At times when such experiences become less apparent, a Mad person may more easily pass. Passing requires acute awareness of social situations and a keen view on the appropriate interaction to insert at various times in order to fit in (Michalko, 1998, p. 104), as well as adhering to social norms for all of one's sites of identity, as Cox (2013) notes.

Passing occurs across many minoritized identities. Often passing is a matter of safety—a means of protection against the treatment (including violence) one might be subject to as a member of one's particular minoritized group. I propose that feeling compelled to pass, across any identity category, is at minimum a form of epistemic injustice, and more often, constitutes epistemic violence. We are all uniquely positioned in the world across what Collins' (2000) calls the "matrix of domination." Our positionality as a sum of our identities comprises a unique, embodied way of knowing. Passing involves the smothering of this episteme. Upon assessing the potential for testimonial incompetence owing to pernicious ignorance (Dotson, 2011), passing can be a matter of life or death. 6

In the academy, people who identify as Mad frequently choose to pass as "sane" (Price, 2011). While doing so may allow one to be unquestionably understood as a knower, much is lost when Mad people engage in testimonial smothering. Passing ignores the ways that Mad people might be "epistemically privileged" (Carel & Kidd, 2014; Scrutton, 2017). 7 Indeed, Scrutton (2017) argues that "recognizing the ways in which people diagnosed with mental illnesses have access to distinctive and/or unique forms of knowledge can correct our testimonial sensibilities and provide us with new hermeneutical resources, and is therefore a route to epistemic justice" (p. 347).

When I chose to smother my testimony for the purposes of passing, I lost the distinct epistemic perspective of bipolar as a way of knowing. I hid my strength and my ability to survive as if those skills were irrelevant. Testimonial smothering involves the assessment that one's testimony, if offered, will be seen as unreliable (Dotson, 2011). Strength and ability to survive intense periods of suicidality thus do not count in what I offer the academy, as I have suppressed those aspects of my identity for the purposes of passing. And yet, "Madness is an embodied way to know. It is intelligent, searching, and valuable. It is not regression, but a conscious reaching out, as is technical work, healing love, or creative feeling" (Fabris, 2011, p. 32). In smothering my Madness, I suppressed its intelligent, searching, valuable qualities alongside some of its more challenging characteristics.

Indeed, much is lost when we smother our Madness. Moreover, when Madness is unfamiliar to dominant groups because of passing, we fail to add to the hermeneutical resources about Madness that might make passing less necessary, which then results in hermeneutical injustice. As Scrutton (2017) argues, "cultivating a recognition of the ways in which experients [sic] are epistemically privileged would enable greater understanding of the immutability of some experiences and the difficulties experients face in relation to them" (p. 353). Drawing on Scrutton, I assert that there is a path to epistemic justice.

Visibility as a Means of Fostering Hermeneutical Resources: The Epistemic Benefits of Representation

Fricker's (2007) delineation of epistemic injustice raises the question of whether or not hermeneutical injustice is also at play in the testimonial smothering of Madness. I assert that hermeneutical injustice does in fact result from such suppression of identity in complex ways. Hermeneutical injustice resides in the lack of collective resources available to a minoritized group for interpreting their experiences (Fricker, 2007). When Mad people choose to suppress or smother our testimony due to fear of testimonial incompetence and pernicious ignorance, our experiences become invisible as hermeneutical resources for others. If bipolar individuals and other Mad people are only visible through media representations and/or stereotypes, it will remain quite difficult for a bipolar individual to make sense of their experience. Fricker (2007) alludes to this possibility with a discussion of a queer individual who faces "bogeyman constructions of The Homosexual" (p. 164). These constructions formulate collective understandings that may preclude an alternative understanding, therefore constructing both the experience and the sense of self of the queer individual as shameful (p. 164). An absence of positive representations thus potentially results in shame and self-stigma (Corrigan et al., 2010).

For the last 25 years, I have lacked, in a lot of ways, reliable information about being bipolar. I have spent many hours watching YouTube videos of Carrie Fisher—admiring her forthcoming approach to discussing her experience. Beyond Carrie Fisher, most of the representations of bipolar I have encountered have reified the stereotypes discussed previously with the exception of Kay Redfield Jamison's (1995) candid memoir. It was her book that taught me about mixed states, allowing me to put a name for the dangerous mix of mania and depression that for me always seems to manifest as suicidality at the speed of a mania. In mixed states, I sit on my hands for hours at a time. Her book gave me a name for this particular experience and a way to talk about it—the very definition of a hermeneutical resource. It is extremely difficult to interpret one's own episodes and experiences when people with bipolar do not assert their experiences into larger discourses because of the massive stigma that still plagues us.

Across all minoritized identities, representation matters (hooks, 1992). 8 Being able to see oneself into the life one wishes to pursue can make all the difference. In my field of music education, representation has meant ensuring young students of color can see themselves in music. Representation of minoritized groups offers hermeneutical resources to individuals who share the identity depicted to not only interpret their own experiences, but to also understand that a particular life is possible.

In her discussion of "controlling images" that affect Black women, Collins (2000) also points to the ways that Black women writers and filmmakers actively resist these controlling images. In other words, these women counter the controlling images via representation. Visibility is thus crucial to fostering hermeneutical resources for minoritized groups to interpret their experiences. In the context of disability, Samuels (2003) describes the decision to disclose or pass as a "politics of visibility and invisibility" (p. 234). Indeed, such decisions have larger political implications that include the epistemic possibilities. Testimonial smothering prevents minoritized groups from adding to the collective hermeneutical resources. Dotson (2011) is explicit that testimonial smothering is a type of violence. Such smothering, however, not only constitutes testimonial injustice, but also results in hermeneutical injustice. For how can we fill a lacuna of hermeneutical resources about Madness if we continue to smother our testimony? More visibility may lead others to not only refuse to engage in testimonial smothering, but perhaps not even feel the need to. Had I seen my bipolar identity represented in authentic ways that perhaps included a professorial life instead of only encountering stereotypes, I may have felt that disclosure was a possibility for me, even amidst employment precarity.

There is a profound need in the academy for Mad and neurodiverse ways of knowing. Such ways of knowing offer academia a particular kind of knowledge production from a deeply situated and embodied perspective. While to date Mad perspectives are often subject to epistemic injustice due to pervasive sanism (LeBlanc & Kinsella, 2016; Perlin, 1992, 2003, 2013; Poole et al., 2012; Sullivan, 2019; Williams, 2014), we need not continue in this manner. Mad contributions remain profound and further offer hermeneutical resources to other Mad people, as the bloggers did in Cavar and Baril's (2021) study. Furthermore, visibility via disclosure results in the presentation and representation of counter-evidence—a crucial move toward epistemic justice.

Disclosure or un/covering, as Evans (2017) describes it, may also have benefits beyond the epistemic. People with experiences of Madness and/or distress who disclose often experience disclosure as positive due to supportive responses and the resulting authenticity they feel (Barth & Wessel, 2022; Mayer et al., 2022; Taniguchi, 2022b; Toth et al., 2022). Østerud (2022) asserts that the authenticity that follows disclosure can further help to challenge stigma (Østerud, 2022, p. 104). When people with experiences of Madness and/or distress received positive and supportive responses to their disclosures, scholars observe that such responses supported wellbeing, self-acceptance, recovery, and self-esteem (Mayer et al., 2022; Taniguchi, 2022b; Taniguchi & Thompson, 2021; Toth et al., 2022). These types of responses affirmed people disclosing experiences of Madness and/or distress. Negative responses, however, were highly detrimental (Barth & Wessel, 2022). A person's self-image goals (i.e. how a person wished to be perceived by others) affected individuals' decisions about disclosure (Taniguchi, 2022a), harkening back to Goffman's (1963) work on impression management. While fear of discrimination is warranted, particularly in employment situations (Elraz, 2018; Glover et al., 2010; Lettieri et al., 2021; Martin et al., 2000; Østerud, 2022; Russinova et al., 2011; Stuart, 2006) including in higher education, disclosure may result in a positive reception. Not only, then, might disclosure and visibility result in epistemic justice due to the more readily available hermeneutical resources, it may also offer unanticipated benefits.

Being out about experiences of Madness and/or distress then can work against the stigmatization of so-called "spoiled identities" (Goffman, 1963) and contribute to the hermeneutical resources available about such experiences. Indeed, Elraz (2018) observes that "public disclosure can thus be viewed as an act of generosity, which encourages others to discuss and be open about their mental health experiences" (p. 732), providing hermeneutical resources for others to make sense of their experiences. Some scholars point to coming out as a means toward structural change. Siebers (2004), for example, notes that people who pass may improve their own life, but "fail to change the existing system of social privilege and economic distribution" (p. 19) and potentially support the "continued oppression of the group to which they do belong" (p. 19). Un/covering, conversely, may facilitate resistance against ableism (Evans, 2017). Cureton worries that passing as non-disabled may potentially harm disabled people through implicitly reinscribing or failing to resist the oppressive social attitudes they might otherwise encounter (p. 27). Drawing on Adam (1978), Siebers (2004), Gill (1997), and Longmore (2003), Cureton asserts that this type of passing may then threaten the "political power, culture, and collective identity of disabled people" (p. 27). These scholars elucidate a duty toward visibility, in cases where that is possible. Visibility not only facilitates the compiling of hermeneutical resources; it also counters structures of oppression including the ableism and sanism that compel passing in the first place. Moreover, "coming out" may allow people with disabilities including those who experience Madness and/or distress to integrate "how we feel with how we present ourselves" (Gill, 1997, p. 39). I longed for this type of integration my entire professional life.

As someone who smothered an important facet of my identity for almost 25 years, I wonder who else feels compelled to engage in testimonial smothering. I fear that this practice is extremely widespread across a multitude of minoritized identities. What perspectives do we lose in the academy and in the world due to testimonial smothering? I mourn these losses and fervently wish to live in a world with a plethora of hermeneutical resources to interpret human experiences and significant visibility and representation across the full range of identities. At this post-tenure point in my career, I no longer wish to smother my testimony. It is my hope that my visibility may in some small way offer a hermeneutical resource to other Mad people in the academy and that our collective visibility may serve to resist the ableism and sanism that disabled and Mad people continually encounter there.


With gratitude to Barbara Applebaum, Cara Bernard, Alyssa Hadley Dunn, Michael Largey, Jamie Magnusson, and Tanya Titchkosky for providing feedback on the initial draft of this article. Thank you as well to the editors and two anonymous reviewers for helping to strengthen this work.


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  1. Fricker (2007) refers to these facets as the "collective social imagination" (p. 15) but she concerns herself with how it operates on a more individual level.
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  2. Wolframe (2013) spells the term saneism. In the rest of the article, I use the term sanism, which is the more common usage.
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  3. LeBlanc and Kinsella (2016) cite Perlin (1992, 2003), Poole et al., (2012), and Wolframe (2013) to make this point.
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  4. A Google search of "gun control" and "mental illness" produced 66,800,000 results on July 22, 2021 and 38,700,000 results on January 14, 2024.
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  5. See also Cahill and Eggleston (1995, p. 681).
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  6. I am thinking in particular here of the level of violence trans women of color are subject to, when they are "clocked."
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  7. Carel and Kidd (2014) discuss this idea in the healthcare context. Scrutton (2017) applies their work to mental illness.
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  8. hooks (1992) offers a powerful analysis and critique of Black representation.
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