Newsletter Nr. 1 (Founding Isssue, September 2004)

By Evelin Lindner, September 2004

Beginning in 1997, I conducted doctoral research on humiliation, in the field of social psychology, at the University of Oslo, and I concluded it in 2001. The research project was entitled The Feeling of Being Humiliated: A Central Theme in Armed Conflicts. A Study of the Role of Humiliation in Somalia, and Rwanda/Burundi, Between the Warring Parties, and in Relation to Third Intervening Parties.

Since 2001, I have concentrated on building a psychology and theory of humiliation (please see background reflections by Lindner, 2004, as short summary, short table, executive summary, and longer paper) and have through this work in many ways contributed to a new multidisciplinary subfield in the academic landscape. I see humiliation as entry point into broader analysis and not as 'single interest scholarship'. The psychology and theory of humiliation addresses humiliation in the political realm, but not only. Humiliation, these are the insights, permeates also the inner workings of organizations and corporations, as well as our private lives and even every person's inner dialogue and how we frame our selves. The dynamics of humiliation affect all levels, from relations between nations to relationships between spouses and their children to my rapport with myself.

In 2001, I met Morton Deutsch, whose work I had admired for years, and was deeply touched by the invitation that he, together with Andrea Bartoli, Peter Coleman, and Betty Reardon, extended to me as to anchor an institute or center or global network for humiliation studies at the Columbia University Conflict Resolution Network (which had been founded by, among others, SIPA, ICCCR, and the Peace Education Program).

Initially, we developed a long list of tentative names for our institute or center or global network, such as Global Network of Humiliation Studies, International Humiliation Studies, or Humiliation Watch. We finally homed in on Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies. I am since working on writing book/s and articles, and building our network and programme. The aim is to not only invite academicians to contribute to this network. Practitioners may want to devise projects that address effects of humiliation. Furthermore, the corporate sector is welcome. Business activities may be attached to the academic program. The aim is to forge a network that knits together academia and practice in innovative ways and helps prevent and avoid cycles of humiliation and instead promote equal dignity.

In the beginning of 2003, I was based in Paris and finished a book manuscript on humiliation. In summer 2003, I taught at Columbia University in New York, and in July, Morton Deutsch most generously organized the 2003 Annual Columbia Round Table on Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, a meeting that critically fertilised subsequent developments. In the fall of 2003, with the kind support of Elisabeth E. Scheper who offered her extremely valuable expertise, we worked on an application for funding, a process that crucially crystallised the vision for future work. In July, encouraged by Andrea Bartoli, I went ahead and invited scholars who had worked on humiliation, or related topics, to Paris, where the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme had generously promised their support.

The 2003 Annual Paris Conference on Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies [Read the Conference Notes] turned out to be a major turning point. It brought the broader Core Team of our network into being. Please meet Donald C. Klein, Linda Hartling, Rick Slaven, Victoria Firmo-Fontan, Eric van Grasdorff, Rebecca Klein, Arne Næss, and Olivier du Merle. We, the participants of this conference, bonded and laid the fundament for subsequent unparalleled fruitful cooperation.

One of the most significant results was Eric's enthusiasm; he most generously offered to build this website for us, pro bono. He forcefully and energetically invested 2-3 months of full-time work beginning in December 2003. In February, I started learning how to maintain our site and try my best since; however, I can always turn to Eric and his friend Martin Stahl for help.

When faced with the task to provide our website with a Core Team, with Partner Organisations, with an Advisory Board, and with Supporters, I realised - to my surprise and joy - that my global life indeed had been fruitful and had rendered the inception of a global network of like-minded people and friends, a network on which we as a group can build further.

When building the website, we finalised the development of the Logo, something which we would not have been able to do without genial Maurice Benayoun. Please read how the Logo evolved!

At about the same time,
Judit Révész, based in New York, indicated that she would be willing to give her time to our cause. She has since worked several hours per day for our HumanDHS network, also pro bono, and with her breathtaking ability for kind and caring networking, has contributed to our group most significantly, and does so continuously and untiring.

Linda Hartling most kindly took over the responsibility to oversee our Special Issue on Humiliation and Human Rights, and continues to do so. Donald and Linda, with their deep knowledge of the workings of dignity and respect - as well as awareness of the havoc that humiliation can wreak - with their highly developed 'walk the talk' abilities, have become Core Core Members of our group. I do not understand how I ever survived without them.

Rebecca Klein and Linda Hartling untiringly took the notes of the conference, and Becca Klein was so generous as to offer that she would maintain our internal database, collect the addresses, the birthdates (so that we congratulate everybody their their birthdays!) and CVs. And Victoria, with her global work and outlook became a dear 'member of our family' as well! All of us have since contributed with new bridges, links, relationships, and ideas, as, for example: what a about a discussion forum? What about a research group? There is no lack of ideas coming in...

In November 2003, and March 2004, I spent time in the Middle East and there I met with many of the great Core Team Members, Advisory Board Members, and Partner Organisations from the Middle East who you see on our website.

Later in 2004, I was supposed to join a team of evaluators to Somalia; however, this trip was cancelled due to lack of security.

On 1st May 2004, I arrived in Japan and have spent 4 1/2 months in Tokyo and the Kansai region since. I am writing this newsletter in Japan. Please meet several eminent scholars from Japan on our Core Team (see, for example, Trevor Ballance and his Call for Creativity) as well as on our Advisory Board, and see also my work on our World Clothes for Equal Dignity and World Art for Equal Dignity projects. See furthermore on our News Section (on the index page of our website) numerous reflections on Japanese culture that I posted so as to contribute to our quest as to how to shape future constructive 'Global Village Life'. I am furthermore especially exited about the Tokyo-based United Nations University's interest in joint research on humiliation.

For me, particularly since I, sadly, have no children, being embedded within family-like relationships with many people around the world is not only gratifying professionally (it is like an intensive intercultural workshop and very important to my work) but also deeply personally satisfying and enriching. Clearly, I have lived like this more or less all my life (after I left school), however, I often felt that I should 'settle down'. Now I have solved this dilemma for myself by saying that I have settled down in the global village, as a true global citizen, a true citizen of the global village. I have found that this is the only form of identity that is one hundred percent congruent with the values of my work, and at the same time the only form of identity that gives me profound inner peace.

People often ask me 'Where are you from?' Or, 'When will you go back home?' Or, 'How is it in your country?' Or, 'You travel all the time?' Or, 'In which hotel do you stay?' I use to reply, 'I am from planet earth (and I gladly tell you more, but it is a long story), I am at home wherever I am and there is no 'going back', and, furthermore, I do not have a country, I have the globe, and you are my fellow human being . your history is also my history, and your culture is also my culture, and I love learning about our world history and our world culture ... and, I usually do not stay in hotels; I stay with friends who are like family ... lastly, I never travel, you do not say that you travel when you live in a village and move around in it, and I live in the Global Village'.

I know that the hotel business would go down, if everybody lived like me, and that there would be less need for nurturing relationships between friendly countries. However, there would also be less need for hating countries that harbour our 'enemies'. I believe that indeed it would be beneficial for all of us to think less in terms of countries, and more in terms of people who all share humanity and deserve a place of equal dignity on this planet.

To summarise, being born into a displaced family, I was forced into questioning usually taken-for-granted identity constructions, and, since my family is also deeply hurt by war, I became a global citizen with a profound desire to contribute to 'never again'- never again atrocities and mayhem. After three decades of 'learning about the world' and thinking about 'how to save it', I arrived at believing that dignity and respect (with humiliation as their violation) are central.

It is difficult to pinpoint a specific point in time, when our Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies network was founded; it rather emerged and evolved, and will continue to evolve.

The Jean Baker Miller Training Institute recently hosted a conference about Creating Relational Possibilities, with its last session about Holding a Vision of Hope. I think that both headings are also important for our group. We, the members of our HumanDHS network, are not motivated by financial rewards or by wanting to have a job. Our motivation is provided by our values and goals and the enthusiasm and hope we can create in our group and for the wider world. We want to contribute to building 'a better world' and this is what drives us. We see as our prime task to learn how to live our values within our own midst - to 'walk the talk' - and on that basis we want to bring our work into the world. We are Cultural Creatives (Ray and Anderson, 2000), who desire building bridges and relationships, locally and globally, and wish to increase dignifying living circumstances for all people inhabiting our globe, while diminishing and eliminating humiliation everywhere.

I, personally, see my role as 'doing-my-best' facilitator for our group, a group of members with equal dignity. We wish to refrain from old-fashioned hierarchical institution-building, from fixed 'job descriptions', from titles indicating rankism, from dividing private from professional life, altogether from old definitions that we find stultifying.

With these words I would like to end this founding newsletter and look forward to our Second Annual Conference , 16th-18th September 2004, in Paris, and in November to our Meeting in New York.