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Abstracts of articles on humiliation
based on three years of research


By Evelin Gerda Lindner, TFF associate



You can obtain these manuscripts by contacting
Dr. med. Evelin Gerda Lindner,
University of Oslo, Institute of Psychology,
P.O.Box 1094 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway.
Tel. +47 91789296

Dr. Lindner's website will also give you project description, her background and a very comprehensive bibliography.



1. Humiliation and the Human Condition: Mapping a Minefield

Evelin Gerda Lindner, forthcoming in Human Rights Review in October 2000

A major cause of socio-political violence is the social process of humiliation, whose main elements are closely related to central aspects of the cultural repertoire of complex societies. This paper presents a theory of humiliation, showing that the capacity to humiliate and be humiliated are aspects of a dense web of 'hot' filaments wired into the tissue of culture, giving it a potentially explosive character that is too little recognised. This paper probes this dense web and explores how it acquired its present character. It is shown that our conceptualisation of humiliation has changed as our sense of human dignity has grown. Humiliation should be understood as not simply an extreme or marginal condition but a central feature of the social order. Viewed within this broader context, the elements that constitute humiliation should be recognised as fundamental mechanisms in the formation of modern society.



2. What Every Negotiator Ought to Know: Understanding Humiliation

December 1999, unpublished manuscript

This paper presents a theory of humiliation and identifies its significance as an interpretative tool for use by negotiators in many kinds of situations. Humiliation and its aftermath have an important impact upon patterns of conflict, culture and communication. The paper is organised in three parts. In the first part, following a brief introductory comparison between Hitler and Mandela, a sympathetic critique is undertaken of William Ury's discussion of the socio-historical roots of conflict and strategies for handling it. In the second part, it is argued that the structures and processes identified by Ury may be further illuminated by identifying the part played by humiliation. This is then done, drawing upon the author's research experience in Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia. The origins, characteristics and consequences of humiliation are examined, distinguishing between the forms it takes in three kinds of society: 'pride' societies, 'honour' societies' and 'dignity' societies. Particular attention is given to the impact of the Human Rights Revolution. In the final part, the paper returns briefly to the comparison between Hitler and Mandela, identifies the challenges that humiliation and its aftermath pose for negotiators, and suggests how these challenges might be met. On the net here!



3. The 'Framing Power' of International Organizations, and the Cost of Humiliation

May 2000, unpublished manuscript

The analysis undertaken in this paper introduces social psychological research into the domain of global governance. The paper addresses the question: 'What is the framing power contained in the empirical reality of globalization?' I will present research on the Prisoners' Dilemma to illustrate the powerful force of 'framing.' This force is played out not only in experimental settings but also in real life. I demonstrate that the growing interdependence of the global village has increased the influence of an inherently constructive Community logic. I argue that this logic may be replaced by an inherently destructive Wallstreet logic as a result of the process of humiliation. Two sources of humiliation are identified, namely inequality and the 'loss of face' in international relations. I conclude that multilateralism and international organizations should become more aware of their power to frame relationships within the global context in terms of Community logic. If they use this power purposefully, this will then influence global and local decision-making in a way that advances a benign form of globalization built on human rights.



4. Money and Humiliation: Why the Corporate Sector Should Support Global Social Policy

July 2000, unpublished manuscript

This article starts out from the suggestion that global social policy would benefit from more corporate involvement. The typical response to such a proposition is that the corporate sector is not interested in social policy, but in earning money. This paper suggests that the corporate sector has, in fact, an interest in incorporating more social responsibility into its strategic thinking, and that it will especially benefit from learning more about the process of humiliation, because the effects of feelings of humiliation hamper corporate activities. The article demonstrates the significance of humiliation as central pillar of the old autocratic management style and shows how humiliation is undermining corporate efficiency as soon as creative networks are expected to function in today's knowledge society. The paper analyses the role of humiliation in corporate relationships and highlights especially the humiliating affect of poverty on those who would like to participate in the market.



5. Humiliation and Rationality in International Relations. The Role of Humiliation in North Korea, Rwanda, Somalia, Germany, and the Global Village

May 2000, unpublished manuscript

To what extent are humans rational profit-maximising beings? This is the question this article addresses by examining North Korea, Rwanda/Burundi, Somalia, Germany, and the so-called global village. It is argued that feelings of humiliation are potent forces that limit decision making to short-term rationality, and furthermore entice actors to severely reduce the size of their reference group. This article is relevant for national and global decision makers. It is especially interesting for policy strategists tackling the future of the global village. If we follow the logic expounded in this article, the West must be aware of a danger looming from the humiliated poor, or at least from their representatives. In view of the danger that, for example, a new Hitler would present, the West is fortunate that the influence and prestige of Nelson Mandela are so great.



6. Recognition or humiliation - The Psychology of Intercultural Communication

June 2000, manuscript written for the ISSEI Millennium conference 'Approaching a New Millennium: Lessons from the Past - Prospects for the Future,' the 7th conference of the International Society for the Study of European Ideas, Bergen, Norway from 14 to 18 of August 2000.

In the case of conflicts between members of different cultures: which should be respected, the other culture or the other person? The article will put forward the following answer. What I have to recognise, acknowledge and respect is the other person and not his or her membership in 'another' culture, and this is because each individual has her personal dignity. The other 'culture' may be a reason of pride, but may also be a cause or a product of humiliation. Intercultural communication must include an analysis of power relations and probe whether past incidents of humiliation may be a source of 'culture difference.' If this is so, respect and recognition entails an obligation to heal this humiliation. 'Respecting' 'culture difference' for its own sake may compound past humiliations by adding further humiliation.



7. How Humiliation Creates Cultural Differences and Political Divisions: The Psychology of Intercultural Communication &endash; Germany and Somalia as Cases.

January 2000, unpublished manuscript

This paper is part of a broader attempt to establish humiliation as a psychological concept. It hypothesises that many cultural differences and subsequent political divisions may be secondary to humiliation. It is argued that when people feel humiliated they construct and deepen difference and division where there was none or little before. It is not disputed that respect for cultural difference and diversity ought to be strengthened in the global society. But the paper warns that the opposite approach, namely an idolisation of diversity and otherness, is just as detrimental in instances where cultural differences stem from humiliation. Such differences require reconciliation, not idolisation misunderstood as respect. Cases illustrating the argument are Germany and Somalia, based on research from 1997-2000 in Somalia and Germany about humiliation, Holocaust and genocide.



8. How Research Can Humiliate: Critical Reflections On Method

May 2000, unpublished manuscript

This paper reports upon the way research experience in the field prompted a major revision of research methodology being used. The research project concerned the part played by humiliation in armed conflicts. Ironically, the researcher discovered that the methodology initially attempted was itself humiliating to the people being questioned. Furthermore, it was humiliating for the researcher to discover this. As a consequence of this discovery, a very rapid learning process took place guided by a commitment to achieving a dialogue about experiences and feelings that was as authentic and open as possible. The paper plots the process of discovering the humiliating effect that certain social psychological methods may have, especially in cross-cultural contexts with a colonial backdrop and within populations with great sufferings from war and genocide.



9. The Anatomy of Humiliation and Its Relational Character.

June 2000, unpublished manuscript

This paper tries to map the conceptual space of the process of humiliation and illustrate it on the personal and group level. It describes humiliation in the framework of Kenneth Gergen's Vygotskian conceptualisation of emotions as elements within relational scenarios, and as actions that gain their intelligibility and necessity from patterns of interchange. It is shown that, in cases of humiliation, on one side there is the active party, the one who humiliates or is, at least, perceived as humiliating, and on the other side there is the party who feels humiliated, rightly or wrongly. The relationship between these two parties may vary in many ways. Furthermore, third parties may perceive cases of humiliation in several ways and may make a range of different normative judgements. This paper is part of a series of articles that aim at building a 'theory of humiliation' connecting social psychology with sociology, social anthropology, history and political science.



10. Humiliation in the Flesh. Honour Is "FACE," Arrogance Is "NOSE UP," and Humiliation Is "TO BE PUT DOWN"

July 2000, unpublished manuscript

This paper plays out the dynamics of humiliation within the framework of Lakoff and Johnson's work on metaphor. The article discusses the question to what extent humiliation may be stable and universal and to what extent culture-dependent, and maps some instantiations of humiliation and ways to respond to it. In the first part of the article the concept of humiliation is discussed in two ways. First the universal and stable core of the concept of humiliation is addressed, showing that every human being knows what humiliation is, and secondly the culture-dependent periphery is attended to, focusing on the different meanings of humiliation in those societies that are based on honour and domination, and those that are based on human rights. The second part of the article presents cases of humiliation and ways to respond to it. Nelson Mandela's innovative way of avoiding violent counter-humiliation of his humiliators receives special attention.



11. Humiliation, Rape and Love: Force and Fraud in the Erogenous Zones

'Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues' (Hobbes in 'Leviathan')

February 2000, unpublished manuscript

This paper is about the intersection between war, sexuality and gender. It encompasses micro-social relations and macro-social structures and integrates several theoretical and disciplinary traditions (social psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, feminism, history and international relations) Its object is to discern the logic of male-female relations expressed in

two kinds of society: those societies that accept the standards associated with human rights and those societies based upon the principle of honour that reject or are unfamiliar with human rights as a framework for living. The paper brings to visibility the meta-logic of humiliation that informs these two frameworks based, respectively, upon the idea of human rights and the idea of honour. Once this meta-logic has been understood, it allows strong links to be seen between public and private spheres: on the one hand, the arena of warfare between nations and ethnic groups, on the other hand, the arena of love and sexuality between individuals.



12. How Globalisation Transforms Gender Relations: The Changing Face of Humiliation

February 2000, unpublished manuscript

This paper explores the idea that there is a link between prospects for peace and constructive cooperation in two kinds of relationships: the relations between nations and ethnic groups in the global arena, and the relations between men and women in the many contexts of everyday life. As key link between these two spheres the process of humiliation is discussed, and changes in the way this process occurs. Humiliation means the lowering of a person or group against their will. It is a process of subjugation, one that damages or strips away pride, honour or dignity. To be humiliated is to be placed, unwillingly and in a deeply hurtful way, in a degrading situation. The object of the paper is to present a hypothesis that may guide research and inform understanding. The hypothesis is presented in the form of a narrative about the link between relations between societies, and relations between men and women (Scheff 1997). The narrative suggests a coherent set of possible answers to the questions arising in daily debates in 'ordinary' life about such matters as whether men or women are the actors in the world and who is responsible.

The background of this paper is a social-psychological research project being carried out at the University of Oslo with the aim to better understand the notion of humiliation. In the course of this work a theory of humiliation is being built. The author, of European background, both psychologist and physician, draws on the fieldwork in Africa (1998-1999) carried out in connection with this research, and on seven years of being a clinical psychologist, counsellor and consultant in Egypt (1984-1991), as well as on studies and work in China and South East Asia.



13. Gendercide and Humiliation in Honour and Human-Rights Societies

April 2000, unpublished manuscript

Adam Jones has attempted to locate genocide within the broader context of male-female relations and this has produced some controversy. This article locates not only Jones's insights but also the controversy his work has produced within a still broader context that is the long-term historical transformation under way between the honour code and the ideology of human rights. This transformation from honour to human rights as the standard for evaluating human behaviour is itself to be located within an even broader framework that is the part played by humiliation in societal structure and historic change. Humiliation is a force that lies behind both the killing of others (for example in war), and the killing of oneself (suicide). This paper attempts to scrutinise societal structures in their historic contexts by using the concept of humiliation. It is hoped that this will shed more light on both gendercide and gender-specific patterns of suicide. In both cases, the concern is equally with patterns of causation (why does it happen?) and patterns of evaluation (what is its significance?).



14. Were Ordinary Germans Hitler's 'Willing Executioners'? Or Were They Victims of Humiliating Seduction and Abandonment? The Case of Germany and Somalia

This article presents findings from fieldwork in Africa (1998, 1999) and Germany (1994-2000). It includes a detailed discussion of Hitler's views about propaganda and his use of this instrument to seduce the masses. It concludes that present-day Germans suffer feelings of humiliation and anger not only at having lost World War II (and in some cases at being labelled accomplices in genocide) but also at having been 'taken in' by Hitler, and by their own desire to participate in the strong and positive feelings he created among the people at large. A similar chain of events unfolded in the case of the Somalian population in relation to the late dictator Siad Barre. It is argued that the feelings of humiliation and resentment experienced by many Germans and Somalis are similar in important respects to the feelings many women and some men experience when they have been 'taken in' by a suitor who seduces and then cruelly disappoints them.



15 Love, Holocaust, and Humiliation. The German Holocaust and the Genocides in Rwanda and Somalia.

Lindner, Evelin Gerda (1999). Love, Holocaust and Humiliation. The German Holocaust and the Genocides in Rwanda and Somalia. In Medlemsbladet for Norske leger mot atomkrig, Med bidrag fra psykologer for fred, 3 (November), pp. 28-29.

Historians usually describe the Treaty of Versailles after the First World War (28th June 1919) as 'humiliating' for Germany ('Schmach,' 'Schande') and argue that this humiliation 'pre-programmed' Germans for the Second World War (see for example Norbert Elias 1989).The 'humiliation' imposed by the Treaty of Versailles was the starting point for my current research project at the Institute of Psychology at the University of Oslo. In this project in the field of social psychology I am studying the genocide in Rwanda (1994) and Somalia (1988) against the background of the German Holocaust.
Could humiliation lead to Holocaust, genocide and ethnic cleansing? This is the central question posed in my research. This is a short text where I present the follow-up questions that have to be posed in order to approach this subject.
To understand more about Holocaust, genocide and ethnic cleansing seems especially urgent at present since it is an issue that continues to haunt us, not least in view of what is happening in Kosovo, Chechnya, East-Timor, Afghanistan, Tibet, etc., or with respect to international terrorism. (On TFF's website here).



16. Hitler, Shame and Humiliation: The Intricate Web of Feelings Among the German Population Towards Hitler

Lindner, Evelin Gerda (2000). Hitler, Shame and Humiliation: The Intricate Web of Feelings Among the German Population Towards Hitler. In Medlemsbladet for Norske leger mot atomvåpen, med bidrag fra psykologer for fred, nr. 1, februar 2000, pp. 28-30.

This paper addresses the intricate web of feelings among the German population towards Hitler. It is argued that the 'little people' or 'broad masses' were routinely humiliated in the hierarchical structure of German society before and after World War I, and that they were lifted up by Hitler insofar as he gave them a sense of importance and purpose. It was only after the 'Zusammenbruch' after World War II that they slowly and painfully recognised that he had abused their gratitude and loyalty.
The aristocracy on the other hand had initially hoped that Hitler would become their puppet to regain national honour. They underestimated him and were humiliated by the fact that he was much more successful than expected and they had to bow to him.
During the war Hitler was a reason for pride among the 'broad masses' but a source of humiliation for the aristocracy. However, after World War II, nobody could be proud. Humiliation was not a public phenomenon as it was after World War I, when a proud nation had been brought to its knees. After World War II humiliation was an inner experience felt by individuals. Every follower of Hitler must have felt humiliated by their own adherence to Hitler: the 'little people' for allowing a dangerous and dubious character like Hitler capture their hearts, the aristocracy for letting it happen.



17. Were the Germans Hitler's 'Willing Executioners'?

Lindner, Evelin Gerda (forthcoming 2000). In Medlemsbladet for Norske leger mot atomvåpen, med bidrag fra psykologer for fred

Germany is currently undergoing a period of 'working through' the 'Nazizeit' [Nazi period]. Documentaries fill German TV screens, and 'Zeitzeugen' [witnesses of history] are interviewed before they die and it is too late. Everywhere, in private homes as in TV chat shows, people are beginning to talk, people who have been almost completely silent for over 50 years. The paper presents findings from fieldwork in Germany in April 2000 that indicate that one of the sorest humiliations felt today by many Germans who lived in Hitler's Germany seems to be the humiliation they suffered as a result of their own beliefs: 'We were told that our Sold [pay] would help Germany win the Endsieg, and that we would get it afterwards! I believed that! This is so humiliating! You cannot imagine!' The paper links the humiliation felt by Germans caused by their own loyalty to Hitler with a case from family therapy where a woman feels humiliated by her own feelings of love and loyalty to a man who exploited her. The suggestion is made that the fundamental mechanisms at work are very similar in the two cases. The aim of the research is to build a theory of humiliation that encompasses all relations, from the national to the individual level. This text is an introduction to the endeavour of building this theory.



© Evelin Linder 2000  


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