History of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies

The Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS) network was born in December 2001, with nothing but a mere idea. From there, the HumanDHS network developed, emerged and flourished in an organic way, as a global network of academics and practitioners who wish to build a world of more dignity and less humiliation (to say it very short!).

Evelin Lindner defended her doctorate on humiliation at the University of Oslo in Norway on May 16, 2001. Betty Reardon, world-renowned founder and leader in peace education, invited her to give a talk on humiliation at Teachers College, Columbia University, on December 17, 2001. Morton Deutsch came to this talk and from then on, continued to support the work on dignity and humiliation.

In the same month, Evelin Lindner was also invited to the United Nations headquarters in New York City to participate in an expert group meeting titled "Structural threats to social integrity - Social roots of violent conflict and indicators for prevention" on December 18-20, 2001, convened by the Social Integration Branch Division for Social Policy and Development Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations in New York.

Evelin Lindner met philanthropist Alan B. Slifka in 1999 at the State of the World Forum, where he launched his Co-existence initiative (May 2-9, 1999). She reconnected with Alan Slifka when she was in New York in 2001. On December 29, 2001, Alan Slifka suggested to Evelin Lindner that she ought to found an organization or institute to increase the world's awareness for the importance of the topics of dignity and humiliation. After a period of half a year of research - Evelin wrote emails to everybody who could possibly be interested - it became clear that there was indeed a lot of interest for this idea. Morton Deutsch was among the first core supporters. He, together with Betty Reardon and Andrea Bartoli, invited Evelin to join the Columbia University Conflict Resolution Network (in 2009 superseded by the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity, AC4) with her newly envisaged organization. A period followed where we (Evelin and the first enthusiastic helpers, among them Judit Révész) envisaged to found a traditional organization. However, as it became clear, a traditional top-down organization would not "walk the talk" - it would not express the core value of HumanDHS, namely that of equal dignity for all. Therefore a more innovative vision evolved, a vision of becoming a flexible global network with open space for creativity and organic growth, a network that transcends national confines and builds bridges between academic disciplines and from academia to practice.

Each annual meeting brought the network to another level (please see the newsletters written after the meetings, and a list of what we have achieved). Our first meeting was organized by Morton Deutsch at Columbia University in New York on July 7, 2003, with Michelle Fine, Susan Opotow, Beth Fisher-Yoshida, Janet Gerson, Andrea Bartoli, Eric Marcus, and Peter T. Coleman as participants, and the second conference by Evelin in Paris, at the Maison des Sciences de l'Hommes, 12th-13th September 2003. The 2003 meeting brought Linda Hartling and Donald Klein into HumanDHS (both had worked on the topic of humiliation already in 2001, long before Evelin Lindner began her doctoral dissertation on humiliation in 1996). In 2003, Eric van Grasdorff and Martin Stahl, in Berlin, created the template for this website and taught Evelin how to develop it from there. Andrea Bartoli later suggested the main 3-fold structure of Research, Education, and Intervention.

Since 2001, HumanDHS has grown to be a global network. Thousands of people from all around the world click on this website every month and write to us and many wish to become members. We have developed several "circles" of members (Global Staff, Global Core Team, Global Advisory Board, Global Supporters, Global Partners, Global Sponsors, Research Team, and Education Team). The vision has evolved that, in order to keep space open for creativity and organic growth (see our Call for Creativity), we wish to plan and administrate only as far as such planning serves this creativity and organic growth. This strategy is based on the insight that building a world of more dignity and less humiliation entails that we need to develop new solutions and be a bit hesitant with old solutions, including old expertise as to how activities like ours should be developed.

There seems to be a basic human tendency to want to avoid the fear of the unknown (something which is unavoidable if one wishes to open space for new creativity), and to do that by over-planning and over-administrating in old ways, thus choking free space for new creativity. We wish to heed Paul Ray's warning that "the way it's done by experts" might be counterproductive for promoting the goals of groups such as HumanDHS - because old methods do not necessarily work for new goals and values: "The genuine connection, the sense of being recognized as a member of a shared community, is lost" (Ray and Anderson, 2000, p. 234). For example, people being addressed with slick advertising in direct mail may lose interest in the contents of such advertising. Therefore, we believe that we need to be careful and not jump too quickly to old solutions. In Norwegian there is a saying: one needs "ice in the stomach" if one wants to reach high and create new worlds. We feel that we need lots of "ice in the stomach" for our work, we need to endure the insecurity and time it takes for a process of creativity to evolve (old solutions are often much quicker, smoother, and seemingly much more "efficient"!), we need "ice in the stomach" to avoid jumping short, into old solutions, that would foreclose new solutions.
(Please see more reflections on these topics by clicking on the following links: Introduction, Mission Statement, Short Definition of Humiliation, Eliminating Humiliation, Larger Sociological Context, Possible Futures, Methods, Appreciative Inquiry, Intervention Rationale)

Clearly, the result is that HumanDHS is always vastly under-administrated. We need to get more support for our unusual vision, and need to develop more institutional structures, innovative structures that reflect our wish to maintain an open global flexible network on one side, and develop concrete projects as part of this network on the other side.

We are continuoulsy discussing our course, with Evelin wishing to serve as a global pathfinder, keeping space open for global flexibility and creativity, being part of a team that shares leadership.

written by Brian Ward!
My name is Evelin Lindner and I have committed my life to engaging with people and communities around the world to end the cycles of violence resulting from people humiliating or putting other people down. To protect our planet for future generations we all need to hold hands in equal dignity and lead each other towards a peaceful, sustainable and a richly diverse global community. Your knowledge, experiences, creativity and inspiration is needed wherever it might be as without your help the journey to peace and sustainability will take so much longer. If you are able to join our network of friends on this wonderful journey please have a look at the opportunities in this website and let us know! Thank you very much!"
This film was created by Lasse Moer on 18th October 2007, on the Blindern campus of the University of Oslo in sunny but very cold autumn weather! The blue jacket is part of the World Clothes for Equal Dignity project!
Please click here or on the picture at the top to see the "Welcome" film, and click on the pictrues further down to see them larger.


Please read more here:

•  How our logo evolved

•  How the name Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS) emerged

•  It seems that we need to coin new terms, terms that express our vision of equality in dignity and functional hierarchy

•  Dear HumanDHS member! Please add here your contribution! How did you experience how HumanDHS emerged and grew? Please send us your text and we will upload it here as pdf file!