By Winnie Ma (PhD candidate)

The ‘Black Canoe’ Haida artwork on the Canadian $20 bill

Dominic Lopes, philosopher of aesthetics at the University of British Columbia, spoke at the Mark Sainsbury lecture about a new kind of injustice, aesthetic injustice, which will be the subject of his forthcoming book, Aesthetic Injustice: A Cosmopolitan Theory. This notion may be reminiscent to many of us of epistemic injustice, which has recently been an extremely salient and widely discussed topic in epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy.* According to Lopes, an aesthetic injustice is a large-scale social arrangement that harms people in their capacities as aesthetic agents, which capacities serve interests in value diversity and social autonomy. Lopes applied this notion to the cases of contact between different aesthetic cultures (such as contact between indigenous Haida and mainstream Canadian culture), and spoke about cases of cultural appropriation, the weaponization of the aesthetic, and what Haida artist Yahgulanaas dubbed the “Medusa Syndrome”, whereby outsiders to an aesthetic culture can petrify the aesthetic capacities of cultural insiders, presumably via many of the same kinds of mechanisms that work in stereotype threat (which can also lead to epistemic injustices). We eagerly await Lopes’ forthcoming work on aesthetic injustice, which promises, like the notion of epistemic injustice, to be extremely fruitful and salient in discussions about cultural equality and intercultural respect, and in our everyday lives.

* Miranda Fricker originated the term “epistemic injustice”. But, importantly, Rachel McKinnon notes that minority ethnic feminist philosophers had been working on issues of epistemic injustice for quite some time before its more recent widespread uptake.


This is our first review of Dom Lopes’ presentation for the Mark Sainsbury Lecture, Tuesday 16th March 2021. Did you attend? Would you like to submit a review? If so, please contact