The Psychology of Humiliation

Summary of Results and What the Research on Humiliation Added to Pre-Existing Knowledg.
  

February 2001
Please quote only with author’s authorisation
(Dr. med. Evelin Gerda Lindner, University of Oslo, Institute of Psychology, P.O.Box 1094 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway, Tel. +47 91789296, e.g.lindner@psykologi.uio.no, www.uio.no/~evelinl)


The research project on humiliation

A four-year research project (1997-2001) was designed by the author in 1996 to explore the role of humiliation. The project is being conducted at the University of Oslo (1997-2001) and is 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. Find further down a list of papers, articles and dissertations written within this research project.

216 qualitative interviews have been carried out by the author, addressing Somalia, Rwanda and Burundi and their history of genocidal killings, as specified in Table 1 . From 1998 to 1999 the interviews were carried out in Africa (in Hargeisa, capital of Somaliland, in Kigali and other places in Rwanda, in Bujumbura, capital of Burundi, in Nairobi in Kenya, and in Cairo in Egypt), and from 1997 to 2001 also in Europe (in Norway, Germany, Switzerland, France, and in Belgium). The interviews were often part of a network of relationships that included the researcher and the interlocutors, and in many cases interviews went over several sittings. Trust was built and authentic encounters were sought, inscribed in non-humiliating relationships that safeguarded everybody’s dignity. Interlocutors were invited to become ‘co-researchers’ in a reflective dialogue with the researcher, involving not only the interviewee and the researcher but also various scholars – through their ideas that were introduced.

As the title of the project indicates, three groups had to be interviewed, namely both the conflict parties in Somalia and Rwanda/Burundi, and representatives of third parties who intervene. These three groups stand in a set of triangular relationships (at least this is the minimum version – where there are more than two opponents, as is the case in most conflicts, the pattern, obviously, has more than three corners). Both in Somalia and Rwanda/Burundi, representatives of the ‘opponents’ and the ‘third party’ were approached.

The following people were included in the ‘network of conversations’ that was created in the course of the research:

·        Survivors of genocides were interviewed, that is people belonging to the groups that were targeted for genocidal killing. In Somalia this included, among others, the Isaaq tribe, in Rwanda the Tutsi, in Burundi Hutu and Tutsi. The group of survivors is typically divided into two parts, namely those who survived because they were not in the country when the genocide happened, - some of them returned after the genocide, - and those who survived the onslaught inside the country. The German background of this fieldwork consists of the network of contacts that I have established, over some decades, with survivors from the Holocaust and, especially, their children.

·        Freedom fighters were included into the ‘network of conversation.’ In Somalia, interviews were conducted with SNM (Somali National Movement) fighters in the North of Somalia, who fought the troops sent by the central government in Mogadishu in the South; in Rwanda the interviewees were the former Tutsi refugees who formed an army, the RFP (Rwandese Patriotic Front), and attacked Rwanda from the North in order to oust the extremist Hutu government which carried out the genocide in Rwanda in 1994; in Burundi there were also Hutu rebels. In Germany, the equivalent of these contacts were exchanges with those aristocratic circles in Germany that fed opposition against Hitler, but also with those, especially from the researcher’s family, who advocated human rights in the middle of World War II and paid a high price for their human compassion. Furthermore, the researcher’s contacts with people from the occupied countries who tried to sabotage German oppression, for example the Norwegian resistance movement, belong into this group, as well as representatives of the allies who finally put an end to German atrocities.

·        Some Somali warlords who have their places of retreat in Kenya were interviewed.

·        Politicians were included, among them people who were in power before the genocide and whom survivors secretly suspected of having been collaborators or at least silent supporters of those who perpetrated the genocide. The equivalent in Germany is the atmosphere of underlying suspicion in which I grew up, generally a mistrust towards everybody of a certain age, but in particular suspicion towards the past of those people in power, a suspicion that only diminishes as the years pass and people die.

·        Somali and Rwandan/Burundian academicians who study the situation of their countries were interviewed. For Germany the last striking manifestation in this field, and a focal point for discussions, has been Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s book on Hitler’s Willing Executioners.

·        Representatives of national non-governmental organisations who work locally for development, peace and reconciliation were included. In Germany, the response to the atrocities of World War II permeates everybody’s life – even the generation born after the war – and the researcher’s intimate knowledge of a culture of German self-criticism may stand as an equivalent to the pre-occupation with past, present, and future anticipated bloodshed that characterises people’s lives in Somalia, Rwanda, and Burundi.

·        Third parties were interviewed, namely representatives of United Nations organisations and international non-governmental organisations who work on emergency relief, long-term development, peace, and reconciliation in all parts of the world.

·        Egyptian diplomats in the foreign ministry in Egypt who deal with Somalia were visited; Egypt is a heavyweight in the OAU.

·        African psychiatrists in Kenya who deal with trauma and forensic psychiatry were asked about their experience with victims and perpetrators from Rwanda/Burundi and Somalia. In Kenya many nationals from Somalia and Rwanda/Burundi have sought refuge, some in refugee camps, others through various private arrangements. Some, both victims and perpetrators, seek psychiatric help. The equivalent in Germany are those researchers who focus on the effects of the German Holocaust and other World War II atrocities.

·        Those who have not yet been interviewed are the masterminds of genocide in Rwanda, those who have planned the genocide, and organised it meticulously. Some of them are said to be in hiding in Kenya and other parts of Africa, or in French-speaking parts of Europe, or in the United States and Canada. Some are in prisons in Rwanda and in Arusha, Tanzania. However, accounts of people who were close to Somali dictator Siad Barre have successfully been collected. In the case of Hitler and those who supported him, a culture of openness and frank discussion is currently unfolding in Germany – the whole country has entered into a phase of ‘working through’ these past experiences, and people who never talked before, do so now, more than 50 years after World War II.

·        The topic has also been discussed with more than 500 researchers working in related fields. The current state-of-the-art has been mapped, showing that few researchers have turned their attention to this field. A Theory of Humiliation is currently being developed by the author, and a larger book project is envisaged (in co-operation with Dennis Smith, professor of sociology).

Some of the interview conversations were filmed (altogether the author produced 10 hours of film, comprising many interviews, but also images of Somaliland and Rwanda), other interviews were taped on mini discs (altogether more than 100 hours of audio tape), and in situations where this seemed inappropriate the researcher made notes. The interviews and conversations were conducted in different languages; most of them in English (Somalia) and French (Great Lakes), many in German, and in Norwegian.

Distribution of interviews addressing Somalia, Rwanda and Burundi

30 interviews

with third party representatives in general in Africa

26 interviews

with third party representatives working with Somalia

54 interviews

with third party representatives working with Rwanda and Burundi

58 interviews

with Somalis in Africa and Europe

45 interviews

with Rwandans and Burundians in Africa and Europe

3 interviews

with Kenyans

Table 1 : Distribution of interviews addressing Somalia, Rwanda and Burundi

This project yielded results that in many ways represent paradigm shifts since they suggest an innovative conceptualisation of reality, both diachronic and synchronic, insofar as the quality of relationships between individuals and groups – as characterised by acts and feelings of humiliation, or respect – is conceptualised as central parameter.

The project breaks new ground, among others, in its effort to be truly interdisciplinary, incorporating in its methodology aspects not only of cultural psychology, social psychology and anthropology, but also history, philosophy and even literary analysis (in its debts to deconstructionism and feminist theory). Indeed, it features an unusual specific methodology, one born in part of necessity but one that proved to have distinct advantages over more formal questionnaire or tightly controlled and impersonal interviews in which the interviewer remains aloof at a great psychological distance from those who she is interviewing. That methodology involved a kind of ‘reflective’ conversation in which the researcher gently confronted participants with narratives and specific questions raised by the historical records. Furthermore, she generally did so only after making an effort to win their trust and their sense that the researcher could understand their experience – in some cases by living among them and, where appropriate and strategically or ethically necessary, by sharing something of her own background and the way it allowed her to empathize with aspects of what they were telling her.

The research essentially weaves a kind of tapestry around the central theme of humiliation in its many manifestations (some obvious, but some rather subtle and non-obvious) in three different genocides involving three very different cultures. It details the role of humiliation both in inducing genocidal aggression and in the subsequent responses of victims and perpetrators who cope with the historical record and their personal recollections and the narratives of their group. In fact, the topic and the methodology seemed to dovetail very effectively. That is, the introduction of the topic proved a valuable probe to get ‘informants’ to reflect on their individual and collective understanding of what occurred and what its contemporary meaning or significance is for them today. The nature of their revelations obliged the researcher, both on scientific/strategic grounds (the need to get people to tell the truth or at least their truth) and on personal or ethical grounds, to interact with them as an engaged and empathetic human being rather than as a detached and totally objective scientist.

Beyond these two very general contributions, there are other contributions that relate to the specific findings and themes that emerged from the interviews, valuable largely in the way they expand our appreciation of the many forms that humiliation and responses to humiliation can take, and did take, in the context of these three ‘case studies.’

Clinical experience and a historic hypothesis triggered the interest in research on humiliation

Two initial observations triggered the author’s interest in the topic of humiliation.

·        The author’s experience as clinical psychologist (1980-84 in Germany, 1984-1991 in Egypt) indicated that humiliation is of crucial importance in human relations, both as act and experience, and that cycles of humiliation may permeate people’s lives with an all-consuming intensity. Vogel and Lazare (1990) illustrate this point in ‘The Unforgivable Humiliation – a Dilemma in Couples Treatment.’ The severity of rifts caused by humiliation to be observed between people called for research.

·        Furthermore, it is often assumed, that the humiliation of the Germans through the Versailles Treaties after World War I was partly responsible for the Holocaust and the Second World War. It seemed therefore very important to understand the nature of humiliation and how it is related to the occurrence of genocide and mass violence. Work by Scheff (1990), Staub (1989), Volkan (1990), or Rapoport (1970) addresses parts of the dynamics that pertain to humiliation, but humiliation is normally not differentiated from other notions such as, for example, shame, or trauma. It seemed important to focus on the notion of humiliation and differentiate it from other concepts.

The first overview over literature and a pilot-study (1997-1998) rendered extremely divergent perspectives on the notion of humiliation

·        Miller (1993), and Cohen and Nisbett (1996) describe humiliation as part of honour societies, such as illustrated in The Iliad, or to be observed nowadays in some urban black males, Mafiosi, Chicano barrios, or the South of the United States. The research question that imposed itself was whether humiliation is a notion that is restricted to honour cultures.

·        Smedslund (1997 in a personal communication with the author) conceptualised humiliation as antonym of respect within the framework of human rights. The above noted research question could be expanded to asking in what way humiliation in an honour context is similar or different to humiliation in a human rights context, and whether honour and human rights are the only parameters.

·        Hartling started to develop a Humiliation Inventory (published 1999) where a rating from 1 to 5 is employed for questions measuring ‘being teased,’ ‘bullied,’ ‘scorned,’ ‘excluded,’ ‘laughed at,’ ‘put down,’ ‘ridiculed,’ ‘harassed,’ ‘discounted,’ ‘embarrassed,’ ‘cruelly criticized,’ ‘treated as invisible,’ ‘discounted as a person,’ ‘made to feel small or insignificant,’ ‘unfairly denied access to some activity, opportunity, or service,’ ‘called names or referred to in derogatory terms,’ or viewed by others as ‘inadequate,’ or ‘incompetent.’ The question arose whether such an Inventory can be used to study humiliation cross-culturally in genocide contexts such as Rwanda and Somalia. It seemed premature for these cases.

·        Margalit (1996) wrote a book on The Decent Society, a society that ought not to entail humiliating institutions. This book highlights the notion that humiliation may be more than an act or an emotion played out between individuals but may be institutionalised. Research had to attend to this point as well. Howard Zehr covers related ground in his book Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice (1990).

·        The results of the pilot study presented humiliation as an intricately complex concept that requires research for better understanding and differentiation. Humiliation means the enforced lowering of a person or group, a process of subjugation that damages or strips away their pride, honour or dignity. To be humiliated is to be placed, against your will (or in some cases with your consent, for example in cases of sado-masochism) and often in a deeply hurtful way, in a situation that is greatly inferior to what you feel you should expect. Humiliation entails demeaning treatment that transgresses established expectations. It may involve acts of force, including violent force. At its heart is the idea of pinning down, putting down or holding to the ground. Indeed, one of the defining characteristics of humiliation as a process is that the victim is forced into passivity, acted upon, made helpless. However, the role of the victim is not necessarily always unambiguous – a victim may feel humiliated in the absence of any deliberately humiliating act – as a result of misunderstandings, or as a result of personal and cultural differences concerning norms about what respectful treatment ought to entail – or the ‘victim’ may even invent a story of humiliation in order to manoeuvre another party into the role of a loathsome perpetrator. People react in different ways to being treated in humiliating ways: some just become depressed, others get openly angry, and others again hide their anger and plan revenge. The person who plans for revenge may become the leader of a movement. A perpetrator might want to commit humiliation but not succeed, a ‘benefactor’ might humiliate while trying to do good, a third party might observe ‘victims’ who do not see themselves as such (or fail to see victims in cases where they do exist), or humiliation is sought instead of despised.

Findings confirm the initial assumptions

Findings confirm the initial assumption that feelings of humiliation are among the strongest emotions available to human beings

The above reported observations concerning the significance of processes of humiliation that triggered the research were confirmed by the fieldwork. Being exposed to acts of humiliation has in many cases significant consequences.

·        Children who are systematically humiliated may not be able to develop the full range of human capacities and become so severely damaged that they show signs of ‘affective blindness’ and lack of empathy. The fieldwork in Somalia and Rwanda shed particular light on the plight of children who are forced to become soldiers at a very young age and represent a ‘danger’ to security as soon as the war is over and they are not instrumental anymore.

·        Adults who are exposed to acts of humiliation may become obsessed with and caught within cycles of humiliation and counter-humiliation that entail a whole range of conditions including depression, anger, and violent behaviour. The research project collected broad evidence for this assumption.

Findings confirm that feelings of humiliation are among the most potent forces that create rifts between people, rifts that are also among the most difficult to heal, and that form the most serious barriers to building trust and co-operation

The fieldwork suggested that many differences, for example cultural differences, may not be primary, but secondary, namely consequences of processes of humiliation. Experiences of humiliation may lead to the

·        heightening of cultural and ideological antagonisms that otherwise would be

·        played down.

The cases of Somalia versus Somaliland, Hutu versus Tutsi, or West Germans versus East Germans demonstrate that available cultural and historical elements that indicate unity are not utilised, on the contrary, feelings of humiliation lead to an emphasis on differences and unbridgeable rifts, similar to the ‘unforgivable humiliation’ that represents the ultimate obstacle to couple treatment (Vogel & Lazarus, 1990).

New, innovative findings and analyses concerning the global historic development of the human condition

The fieldwork shed light on different societal contexts in which humiliation occurs

The fieldwork carried out in Somalia and Rwanda/Burundi by the author (on the background of German history) made clear that there are at least three contexts within which humiliation is played out in different forms:

·        Firstly, what could be named the context of ‘pride’: in Somalia ‘noble,’ ‘proud,’ and ‘free’ nomads promote a proverb that says: ‘A man deserves to be killed, not humiliated,’ in other words, humiliation is feared and averted, if necessary at the cost of one’s life, not endured.

·        Secondly, the context of ‘honour’: in Rwanda/Burundi humiliation is deeply institutionalised in intricately hierarchical societal structures that attach honour to rank – similar to Germany before Hitler’s ascent – and underlings are used to lowly positions characterised by humility and an exposition to routine acts of humiliation by superiors;

·        Thirdly, the context of ‘dignity’: all societies on the globe are currently affected by human rights ideals that postulate that each person’s dignity ought to be respected and not humiliated.

Findings were mapped onto human history and the discovery was made that the act and experience of humiliation may be taken as defining parameters of human history

Somali egalitarianism, Rwandan/Burundian hierarchical structures, and recent egalitarian human rights ideals, though coexistent today, may be mapped onto human history, which, according to the author’s view, leads to both interesting and stimulating perspectives on history that are new and innovative in their comprehensive modelling: Humiliation may be taken as a term that describes the core transformation of the human condition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and today’s knowledge society. The notion of humiliation describes the application of a universal idea, namely that something may be ‘put down,’ or ‘turned into a tool.’ This ‘downward push’ may be applied to the biotic and abiotic world: nature may be instrumentalised, as may human beings. Instrumentalising human beings, subjugating and degrading them, for example as slaves, has long been regarded as ‘normal,’ however, it becomes an illegitimate practice as soon as a society transforms from traditional hierarchical ranking orders to human rights based egalitarian structures. Currently a transition is taking place from an old condition where societal structures build on ranking orders that are associated with honour and customary practices of humiliation, towards a new condition where the ideal of human rights indicates that every human being has an inner core of dignity that ought not be subject to abasement. The significant historic transition thus progresses from

·        Pride societies (egalitarian societal structures that have not yet experienced systematic subjugation) to

·        Honour societies (hierarchical societal structures based on agriculture) to

·        Dignity societies (knowledge society with egalitarian networks).

The above reported descriptions of humiliation as related to honour (Miller, Cohen, Nisbett) and human rights (Smedslund) may therefore be mapped onto different societal profiles that developed during human history and that vary according to the mode in which the act of ‘putting down’ is employed, whether only upon the abiotic world (tool making), or also upon the biotic world (human beings as tools or slaves), and whether this is regarded as ‘normal’ (honour societies), or as illegitimate (human rights contexts).

Findings show that reactions to humiliation vary according to the societal setting within which they occur

The fieldwork rendered important evidence that people universally react with depression or anger and violence when humiliated, however, that such reactions vary according to the three main societal settings described above. These findings are extremely relevant for cross-cultural encounters that fail because the cross-cultural differences pertaining to processes of humiliation are not understood:

·        Pride: In an aggressive egalitarian nomad culture such as Somalia, people tend to display open anger and aggression when confronted with attempts to humiliate them.

·        Honour: Reactions of covert anger or depression are to be expected in hierarchical systems such as Rwanda/Burundi or Germany before Hitler’s rise where people have been trained, over centuries, to accept humiliation, and some even develop humble acceptance of their lowly position in the hierarchical ranking order.

·        Dignity: Modern human rights societies, in contrast, try reversing this learning process. They attempt to empower their citizens and teach them civil disobedience and self-possession; this happens more in some segments of society, and less in others. Individuals as well as the corporate sector, for example, are willing to pay large sums for seminars and workshop that reverse the learning process that in the old order was designed to create humble underlings, while other segments of society – for example, governing bodies and elite groups – try to preserve old style power asymmetries.

The ‘unlearning’ of formerly state-of-the-art upbringing methods and communication styles that entailed routine humiliation for underlings is an important field for more research on the notion of humiliation.

Multidisciplinary analysis and synthesis indicate that humiliation – together with other parameters – may be seen as a parameter that defines the human condition

The author analysed the role of humiliation (versus respect) in a model that also includes other parameters such as the Security Dilemma, the pie of resources and time horizon. This means that the three above-described historic phases may be viewed through the lens of

·        the Security Dilemma, whether it is weak or strong,

·        the pie of resources, whether it is expandable or fixed,

·        the time horizon, whether it is long or short, and

·        social identity as pertaining to humiliation or respect.

The most benign scenario is a combination of weak Security Dilemma, expandable pie, long time horizon, and an atmosphere of respect. Conversely, the worst scenario brings together a short time horizon, positioned in an environment that represents a fixed pie of resources, combined with a strong Security Dilemma, within which individuals or groups are exposed to humiliating assaults. As already mentioned, feelings of humiliation and their consequences may be so strong that they override and undermine otherwise ‘benign’ scenarios, in a downward spiral. This model of the human condition may be instrumental to analysing social change over long time stretches and in different world regions, as well as aid future strategy planning for governments and international organisations. It indicates that the destructive nature of the dynamics of humiliation becomes the more visible the more the other parameters veer to the benign side.

Policy relevant findings related to currently occurring transitions

Findings indicate that feelings of humiliation become stronger at the current historic turning point as the act of humiliation becomes illegitimate and at the same time more wide-spread

Central findings of the research – with urgent policy relevance – concern the consequences of the current historic transition from ‘honour humiliation’ (humiliation as legitimate subjugation of some human beings by others in honour societies) towards ‘human rights humiliation’ (modern human rights based societal structures that regard humiliation as illegitimate).

This transition dangerously increases feelings of humiliation in many segments of the world population:

·        Feelings of humiliation increase whenever underlings come to perceive that their condition of subjugation – a condition they may have accepted as divinely ordained or nature’s order – is far from legitimate and represents but illegitimate and humiliating lowliness.

·        Global promotion and awareness of human rights is currently contrasted with an increase of its violations – the growing gap between rich and poor is but one example – and this gap increases feelings of humiliation among the less privileged because they feel victimised by what they see as humiliation by ‘double standards’ or empty ‘human rights rethoric.’

·        Formerly recommended communication styles that entailed routine humiliation increasingly receive medical labels such as trauma, bullying or mobbing, and thus expand the repertoire of existing medical diagnoses insofar as processes of humiliation become the core of new diagnostic labels.

Since feelings of humiliation have the potential to lead to anger and violence an increase of those feelings within the world population may be described as being as dangerous as a pressure cooker that collects steam.

The fieldwork revealed that the most intense feelings of humiliation may be linked to feelings of admiration

The fieldwork revealed that

·        the most intense feelings of humiliation may occur in victims who admire their humiliators.

·        In cases where such victims gain access to means for counter-humiliation this will be carried out with particular brutality and may include genocidal killings.

Edna Adan, admired first lady of Somalia obviously triggered feelings of humiliation that she was unaware of and later suffered imprisonment with particularly brutal attempts of counter-humiliation by her former admirers; in her words: ‘Humiliation is when someone tries to bring someone down to their level. They think that you are above them and they want to hurt you, humiliate you, bring you down to their level, so that you have no more self-respect, so that you lose the respect you have for yourself and others lose the respect they have for you.’ Equally, Hutu admired Tutsi and felt humiliated by them, and ultimately subjected them to genocide. The sequence of humiliation and counter-humiliation occurs particularly at times of change, when underlings begin to expect more respect from their superiors and feel humiliated by the lack of this respect. They may attempt – if they get access to means for it – brutal counter-humiliation of their former masters, who typically are surprised, because they are unaware of such dynamics. The policy recommendation for elites is therefore to be aware of the degree of admiration and expectation for respect from underlings.

Figure 1 illustrates how the relationship between Person B and A may initially be characterised by admiration, or ‘looking up,’ and then transform into a relationship where the admirer B feels ‘put down’ by the admired person A (B may only imagine this, but it may also be real) and B may then start actively ‘putting down’ A if A’s resources allow for that. The research indicates that this is a ‘genocidal’ setting. These dynamics are not only played out between person A and person B, but are also represented in the mental apparatus inside person A and B. What can be observed as action emanating from A and B is the effect of the inner dialogue that plays on this inner scene.

 

Person B tries to put down person A, to whom she previously looked up, while person A is neutral towards person B or looks down on B

 

 

            Person A                                                                Person B

 

 

 


     A     ßà      B                               ß à                        B   ß            A

 

Figure 1 : Humiliation

Findings suggest that the current rise of underlings to the level of equality as described by human rights ideals is characterised by a certain diachronic pattern (that also occurs synchronically)

The results of the research project on humiliation as related to genocide and war show that processes of humiliation are elementary, because genocide and war often occur when underlings try to replace their masters (and keep hierarchy intact), or attempt to rise to equality (and dismantle hierarchical structures) as described by human rights ideals.

The research yielded the thought-provoking results that the current rise of underlings to the level of equality as described by human rights ideals is characterised by a certain sequence of actions and reactions, and that this sequence is not only diachronic, but also synchronic. The sequence of actions and reactions may be summarised as follows:

·        Underlings in traditional hierarchical societies may humbly accept their lowliness as divinely ordained or nature’s order (see notions of penetration, structural violence, Galtung, 1969, 1996). Masters view their superiority in the same terms – they typically assume that their underlings deeply admire and love them and that their domination represents nothing more than parental patronage.

·        Underlings may attempt to rise within ranking orders by imitating elites. Masters typically view this effort with mild sympathy or ridicule.

·        At some point underlings recognise that by imitating masters they do not actually achieve   the status of a master or gain respect as an equal (Frantz Fanon, 1986) and they develop feelings of humiliation regarding their lowly position. They may call for major changes of hierarchical structures, even for revolution and violence, and may accuse masters of having arrogated their superiority illegitimately. At this point masters themselves typically experience feelings of humiliation due to the withdrawal of the thankfulness and subservience that they feel entitled to receiving from their underlings. Violent oppression of their underlings may be the masters’ reaction in cases where they stay in power; genocide of the former elite (imagined or real) may the result when underlings gain access to the country’s power instruments (Hutu in Rwanda).

These three stages may occur in the course of macro-historical changes – such as the demise of slavery – however, the same society, even the same person, may harbour all stages and incremental transitions between stages within herself at the same time. An underling, for example, may rebel against an elite and feel humiliated by it, while at the same time admiring it and feeling ashamed of this very admiration. The intricate web of threads of feelings and actions that accompany the rise of underlings requires thorough disentangling in order to understand and prevent violent expressions. Processes of humiliation and counter-humiliation stand at the core of this web and give it a comprehensive meaning. The research project on humiliation has shed valuable light on this web, however, more research is required.

Findings suggest that the current transition towards human rights ideals is characterised by a multitude of confrontations and contradictions

The author found ample evidence for the problems entailed in the current transition to human rights based societal structures and facilitates the tackling of such problems by systematising these problems with the help of the concept of humiliation. Today’s global society includes

·        promoters of human rights who regard degradation of others as illegitimate,

·        and at the same time representatives of the opposite stance who justify the same practice as highly recommendable.

Often the elite of a country or organisation displays the ‘old values’ and pays at best lip service to human rights, while others call for an earnest implementation of the ideal of human rights. This antagonism creates a host of misunderstandings and bitter feelings that relate to the notion of humiliation. Oppressive dictatorial regimes, for example, face criticism from human rights advocates and are accused of humiliating their underlings, however, such regimes may return the same accusation and deplore that Western imperialist ideas are used to humiliate the non-West. An important policy recommendation arising from the research is that human rights advocacy that does not display respect for those who still adhere to the old honour code, may have humiliating effects on the accused that create secondary problems in the course of a transition that is already difficult in itself. In order to facilitate a smoother transition towards human rights, these findings are crucial, and further research necessary.

Findings suggest that the current transition towards human rights ideals can be described with terms such as arrogation, humiliation and humility

Figure 2 depicts how the current transition to egalitarian relations may be described. It may be seen as characterised by underlings who begin feeling humiliated by their lowly position and who accuse masters of having arrogated their superiority. Underlings attempt to rise to the line of equality, and at the same time call for masters to descend to a common level of humility, thus dismantling hierarchy. In contrast, in the traditional honour society underlings typically rose to the level of the master and kept the old hierarchical structure in place.

 

The transition to egalitarian relations

 

 

Master                                                                          Top of

(Arrogation)                                                                  hierarchy

 

 

 

 

Humility                                                                        Line of

                                                                                    equality

 

 

 

 

Underling/                                                                     Bottom of

Slave                                                                            hierarchy

(Humiliation)

 

Figure 2 : The transition to equal dignity for every human being

Findings suggest a link between the curve of awareness of human rights, feelings of humiliation, and social change, and suggest that the time lag between the first and the last creates feelings of humiliation

Figure 3 illustrates how the curve of feelings humiliation is linked to the curve of awareness of human rights ideals and descends only as human rights ideals are implemented.


The curve of feelings of humiliation in relation to human rights awareness and social change

            Degree/

             intensity

 

(1) awareness of human rights

 

 

                                                                                                                         

      (2) feelings of humiliation

 

   

(3) social change

                   (1)           (2)           (3) 

                                                                                                                           Human history

(1)   Curve of awareness of human rights

(2)   Curve of feelings of humiliation

(3)   Curve of social change towards implementation of human rights

Figure 3 : The curve of feelings of humiliation in relation to human rights awareness and social change

Findings suggest that feelings of humiliation may drive leaders to perpetrate genocide

Since feelings of humiliation are extremely powerful, leaders who feel humiliated may be prone to guide their followers into the perpetration of atrocities that they present as a form of ‘healing through humiliation.’ This scenario becomes particularly complicated

·        when feelings of humiliation are compounded by feelings of humility and inferiority together with shame about these very feelings. This may be the case, for example, when underlings rise to power and are confronted with the effects of their own former humble acceptance of their lowly state. The genocide perpetrated by the former Hutu underlings on their former Tutsi elite, is but one illustration; Hitler, who started his life under humiliating circumstances as member of a downtrodden German minority in Austria another example.

·        For long-standing elites oppression of underlings may be ‘sufficient,’ while former underlings – risen to power – may attempt genocide on the former elite minority. This systematisation is suggested by the fieldwork, however, requires much more research to be further substantiated.

Findings confirm the widespread assumption that feelings of humiliation can be instrumentalised by leaders

Since feelings of humiliation have an exceptional force, leaders who wish to accomplish atrocities with the help of a population may be tempted to incite feelings of humiliation among their followers and promote atrocities as a way to ‘heal humiliation.’ This may work even if the story of humiliation is imagined or fabricated and the proposed ‘healing’ not effective, as many examples show, among others that of Hitler’s genocide upon the Jews – his imagined and feared ‘super-humiliator.’

·        It may be the case that a populace that experiences frustrating and humiliating living conditions is especially prone to fall for stories of humiliation that supposedly explain their predicament that may be ‘healed’ with atrocities proposed by their leaders. Hitler and Siad Barre were experts in mobilising masses that felt that their contribution to their leaders’ vision provided them with a significance they never had before. The desire of people for more respect was thus abused by their leaders.

·        Populations that live under more satisfying conditions and feel that their desire for respect has been met may be less seducible.

Findings and analysis indicate that the current rise of underlings to the level of equality as described by human rights ideals includes many segments of society and many social practices

Though the research on humiliation here presented focused on war and genocide and shed light on the rise of groups or classes from humiliating lowliness in this context, it yielded the important finding that the rise of underlings characterised by the above-described sequence of actions and reactions that negotiate the issue of humiliation, is not only relevant for incidents of war and genocide, but also for other contexts within which underlings rebel. The diachronic and synchronic transitions from humility through ambitious imitation to humiliation and protest, and the possibility of putting into effect a psychological process of moderation that may lead to constructive change, are both relevant for

·        Women as they rise out of humiliating subjugation by males and patriarchal structures;

·        Blacks as they struggle out of a humiliating position in relation to whites;

·        The poor as they try to cope with the increasing gap between themselves and the rich;

·        The struggle between two forms of rationality: rationality as defined as a long-term holistic approach against rationality defined as short-sighted instrumentalisation;

·        Nature in its transition from being an object of short-sighted instrumentalisation towards being protected as sustainable fundament of human life.

In all cases feelings of humiliation may be expressed in terms of violence and destructive confrontation that compound an already difficult transition with avoidable secondary problems of violent cycles of humiliation and counter-humiliation.

Epistemological and methodological findings and analyses.  Multidisciplinary analysis and synthesis yield the insight that the term humiliation systematically connects many aspects of the human condition and academic scholarship

The fieldwork shed more light on the interesting fact that humiliation provides not only a ‘red thread’ through human history, but is also inscribed within many aspects of the human condition. It is

·        a societal process (and addresses the legitimacy of subjugation and power asymmetries);

·        a process occurring between ‘humiliators’ and ‘victims’ (and implies an intergroup and interpersonal act);

·        an emotional state (and implies the occurrence of an experience and feeling).

In other words, the concept of humiliation connects the form of societal structures, the mode of intergroup and interpersonal relations, and an emotional state (common sense language uses the same word, namely ‘humiliation,’ for the act and the experience of humiliation).

The concept of humiliation thus also connects basic research in

·        psychology, as for example research on emotions, with large macro-political analyses that include

·        anthropology,

·        sociology,

·        philosophy and

·        political science.

  The fieldwork highlights that the validity of research hinges on non-humiliating research methods

The author left 1998 for fieldwork in Africa with a guideline for semi-structured interviews. However, this strategy had to be abandoned because it became clear that great care has to be taken to not humiliate potential interlocutors who are expected to speak about the atrocities they lived through and the failings of their countries to a person who represents the former white colonisers and who flies in on a scholarship that they would like to have themselves.

·        Western-style methodology that turns the interlocutor into a mere object humiliates this person – this happens in Western contexts, however, even more in non-Western contexts that carry memories of being instrumentalised by colonisation before. Furthermore, the economic gap between the white researcher’s standard of living and the grave lack of resources under which most informants in Africa have to live is in itself humiliating for them.

·        Reflexive dialogue covering the same basic topics with many different people and faithfully capturing their beliefs and feelings was the new method that was developed by the author. These dialogues had to be conducted with humility and authenticity on the interviewer’s side. Research data often are being paid for, at least indirectly, insofar as students are obliged to offer their services to research, or patients or refugees expect therapy or asylum for their willingness to talk about memories they rather would forget. However, in cases where the interviewee has no reward but the contact with the researcher during their encounter, the researcher may not be provided with any valid data, if she is not entering into an authentic and non-humiliating dialogue with her interlocutors.

  Multidisciplinary analysis and synthesis yield the insight that the concept of humiliation entails, at least, seven layers

·        The core of the concept of humiliation builds on the universal idea of ‘putting down.’

·        The next layer plays out the core in two diametrically opposing ways, namely, on one side, ‘putting down’ as being legitimate and ‘good for you,’ or, on the other side, as illegitimate and traumatising.

·        A first peripheral layer pertains to cultural differences that affect groups of people.

·        Four additional peripheral layers relate to differences in the personalities of individuals and the way these differences are linked to experiences of humiliation.

 

The pervasiveness of acts and feelings of humiliation in all aspects of human life and its multidisciplinary character may be the reason why few researchers have studied humiliation explicitly

Humiliation and shame, for example, are often confounded rather than differentiated. The point of this research is that humiliation, though in many respects related to shame, trauma, and other conditions, deserves to be treated separately, and requires future research and further theoretical conceptualisation that differentiates it from other notions.

Policy recommendations to third parties who wish to mediate in conflicts or create strategies for future social change

Findings suggest to third parties who intend to respect diversity to make sure that such diversity is not a symptom of processes of humiliation that call for healing instead of rigidification through misunderstood ‘respect’

The fieldwork showed that it is important for third parties to understand whether proclaimed differences (cultural, ideological, ethnic, and so on) are

·        primary (and the result of separate cultural development) or

·        secondary (result of processes of humiliation),

since respect for differences becomes a difficult concept in cases where these differences are caused by humiliation. In such cases ‘healing’ may be called for, instead of the rigidification of rifts by a misunderstood concept of respect. ‘Ethnicity,’ or ‘clanism,’ for example, often called upon as explanatory factors, may have their roots in dynamics of humiliation and must not be blindly taken as explanatory factors. Somali clans, for example, used to merge in the dream of Somali unity before they fought each other, and Hutu and Tutsi have more in common than may be expected.

Findings suggest that the important question after the fall of a dictatorship is not impunity or punity for perpetrators, but which impunity or punity

·        Honour society: Many traditional honour hierarchies in the course of history witnessed uprisings that toppled the ruling power elite and replaced it with the successfully risen underling group. Often the former elite was executed or otherwise ‘punished’ for ‘crimes’ that the new elite would continue perpetrating in the same way. Punity in such contexts merely represents power struggle.

·        Dignity society: The word reconciliation entails a call for the dismantling of hierarchy, not just a replacement of the ruling elite. Reconciliation requires that power elites descend to the line of equality/humility and discontinue competing for power through ‘punishment.’

Findings suggest that reconciliation requires a learning process towards human rights ideals

Findings suggest that the current use of terms such as forgiveness and reconciliation are indications of the ongoing transition towards human rights ideals that takes place at present.

·        Honour society: Humiliating ‘trouble makers’ (for example Kurds in Turkey) is a legitimate tool in order to maintain ‘law and order.’ Power elites feel entitled to use acts that entail humiliation to restore ‘calm.’ They see this as their duty and do not regard humiliation as abuse.

·        Dignity society: Elites who felt entitled to use humiliation to restore order are depicted as perpetrators after their fall. Their behaviour – that fitted the honour code – is judged from the human rights perspective. Most ‘dutiful’ perpetrators are likely to disagree and may have to be taught about human rights values in order to understand the effects of their deeds. This has to be done with respect in order to allow for learning. Only after such learning a perpetrator may accept his or her role as a perpetrator and be open for processes of apology, forgiveness and finally reconciliation.

Recommendations for the healing of processes of humiliation

Recommendations for healing humiliation by creating alliances of moderates

Healing cycles of humiliation and counter-humiliation can only be brought about when moderate human rights advocates on all sides form alliances against extremists who are driven by obsessive feelings of humiliation. The important fault lines do not run between the camps of opponents (such as Hutu-Tutsi), but between the moderates and the extremists in both camps.

·        Usually conflict resolution efforts concentrate on pacifying relations between opposing groups (such as Hutu-Tutsi).

·        It may be more fertile to focus on the fault lines between moderates and extremists in both camps and attempt to create an alliance between moderates of both camps with the aim of reducing feelings of humiliation among their extremist group members and minimising humiliating living conditions of the broad masses so as to foreclose the opportunity for extremist leaders to instrumentalise feelings of frustration and humiliation among the broad masses.

Third parties may be well advised to pay close attention to fault lines, asking which of those are really relevant and instrumental for peaceful change. Third parties may need to concentrate on supporting moderates of all camps in their attempts to heal feelings of humiliation that fuel violence. This is because opposing groups can hardly enter into compromises unless their extremist members have been pacified. This innovative finding of the research on humiliation turns the usual approach to conflict transformation away from negotiating the contents of compromises towards the feelings that fuel the need to create and maintain rifts and disunion. It is a truism that conflicts of interest are best solved in unity. They are unsolvable if disunity is a psychological need among some of the opponents. Humiliation provides a need for rifts – rifts that no negotiation can bridge – this is the conclusion of this research on humiliation. Therefore feelings of humiliation and attendance to them has to be the priority for third parties that attempt to mediate in violent conflicts.

Recommendations for healing feelings of humiliation

Feelings of humiliation may lead to violent protest that triggers cycles of humiliation and counter-humiliation. Revolutions and uprisings may not bring peace, but more violence. In such cases societal structures that have humiliating effects may not be improved, on the contrary, they may deteriorate under conditions of war and violent conflict. This is one way the dynamics humiliation may be played out. However, humiliation may also be overcome peacefully, both as a feeling and as social condition (see the case of Nelson Mandela).

·        To overcome the feeling of humiliation, underlings have to step outside of the master-slave dyad and learn to act autonomously, instead of re-acting to the master’s actions and definitions. This is a psychological process that requires great personal strength.

·        To overcome humiliating social conditions entailed in power asymmetries that violate human rights, underlings need to ‘stand up’ and exercise autonomy. Then they may be able to teach their masters that change is necessary and unavoidable, both normatively and practically, and that a peaceful transition is preferable to war.

Rising underlings who have achieved such autonomy and stature, such as Nelson Mandela, may be called ‘moderates’ who are able to teach both masters and extremist underlings how to tackle the transition from oppressive hierarchy to respectful equality. Moderation is not to be confused with softness; it is autonomous analysis and action (Mandela). Research on humiliation has shed light on the psychological processes that are necessary for peaceful transition, more research is necessary. The important point is that social change towards more human rights awareness and implementation, necessary and difficult as it is, may be compounded with avoidable secondary problems, if feelings of humiliation lead to destructive violence instead of constructive change.

Reflection suggests an important role for globalisation and information technology, or how the global village may entail ‘good’ and ‘bad’ neighbours, but not ‘enemies’

The research on humiliation touched upon important links between the processes of globalisation and the current transition towards human rights. The researcher describes the current human rights revolution as a continuous revolution, powered by information technology and growing interdependence, as opposed to former singular revolutions that soon ended in rigidified structures. A continuous revolution, urging non-humiliating egalitarian relationships and structures, in a global village that has lost the former split into several ‘villages’ (empires, etc.) forecloses also the definition of the term ‘enemy.’ ‘Enemies’ typically are defined as coming from ‘outside,’ and to be sent ‘back’ there. However, a global village does not give room for a traditional ‘outside’ anymore. This indicates the need to integrate ‘bad’ neighbours with non-humiliating methods into the global village and calls for discarding traditional concepts and rules concerning ‘enmity.’

The learning process towards human rights in the global village has succeeded, and reconciliation in disrupted societies is achieved when

·        the term ‘enemy’ has been discarded and replaced by the term

·        ‘bad neighbour,’ who may be transformed into a ‘good neighbour’ or, in some cases, even into a ‘friend.’

Findings and analysis suggest that third parties may want to highlight the beneficial effects of non-humiliating relationships and institutions

Third parties may further learning processes towards non-humiliating relationships and institutions.  They may point out that in an interdependent global village torturing and killing ‘enemies’ will be perceived as an act of humiliation by survivors and third parties, and will not actually result in peace, order and calm; on the contrary, it will lead to violent attempts of counter-humiliation. Conversely, maintaining non-humiliating relationships and structures, as well as healing feelings of humiliation caused by past humiliations, though at the first glance more laborious and time-consuming than brutal oppression, will render long-lasting peace, order and calm and give rise to the stability that is needed for economic development.

Findings that were surprising

Several findings of the fieldwork were surprising and contradicted former expectations.

·        Typical assumption: Emotions are to be studied by psychology, institutions by sociology and political science. Important finding by the author: In the case of humiliation many academic fields and aspects of the human condition are interlinked. Humiliation is thus a multidisciplinary topic, a situation that may provide an explanation for the scattered state of scholarship on humiliation and why it has hitherto not be analysed in a similar multidisciplinary and comprehensive manner as carried out by the author.

·        Typical assumption: Detached quantitative methods secure high quality of research. Important finding by the author: Validity may become low when humiliating research methods are applied on human beings in social sciences. An interviewee, turned into an object for research, may feel humiliated, close up and not provide valid data.

·        Typical view: Research in social sciences taps the social knowledge of people without preconditions. Important finding by the author: It is often forgotten that interviewees are directly or indirectly rewarded for opening up (students, patients, refugees), while interviewees in many real life situations lack this reward. Interviewees, especially in non-Western contexts, may not be motivated to speak about difficult experiences just for the sake of research, let alone provide valid data. The researcher has to win the trust and interest of interviewees and has to convince them to become co-researchers.

·        Typical assumption: We live in an era where history has ended (Fukuyama, 1993). The author’s findings confirm Ury’s (1999) speculations concerning modern knowledge society’s return to former nomadic egalitarianism. Human rights ideals that promote egalitarian networks and untouchable personal dignity may be located towards the Somali pole, at least in some respects; pre-hierarchy and post-hierarchy are related.

·        Typical assumption: We cannot learn from history since history has no systematic direction. Findings: The application of the idea of subjugation on the abiotic and biotic world – invented, expanded and opposed – represents a coherent conceptualisation of human history. The current transition to human rights-based relationships and institutions creates problems that are predictable and preventable by attention to the notion of humiliation.

·        Typical assumption: Africa is homogeneous. Finding: Africa is not at all homogenous; many have observed this before, but this view has been confirmed by the author’s research. Somalia with its pride culture marks one extreme pole of a continuum that stretches from egalitarian societal structures to hierarchical structures, while Rwanda/Burundi and pre-Hitler’s Germany with their extreme hierarchies and honour rankings mark the other pole.

·        Typical assumption: Ethnicity plays a large role in violence currently to be observed around the world. Important and innovative finding by the author: Rifts pertaining to culture, ethnicity, ideology, religion or conflicting interests may be the result of dynamics of humiliation rather than primary differences. Thus the theory of humiliation marks a point in academic thinking were relations between players – entailing humiliation or respect – are seen as central explanatory factor, as opposed to explanations that are based on various static contents related to religion (religious wars), ideology (Cold War), ethnicity (current paradigm of explanation), culture and civilisation (Huntington, 1996), or conflicting interests (competition for water and land, etc.). The theory of humiliation highlights the malleability of expressions of difference according to the degree of existing feelings of humiliation between players.

·        Typical assumption: Victims of humiliation loathe their humiliators. Important finding: The most intense feelings of humiliation may occur in victims who admire their humiliators. In cases where such victims gain access to means for counter-humiliation this will be carried out with particular brutality and may include genocidal killings.

·        Typical assumption: Long-standing elites that fear loss of power perpetrate genocide. Important and innovative finding by the author: It may rather be the case that former underlings, risen to power, perpetrate genocides. Long-standing elites may want to oppress, but not necessarily commit large-scale genocides. The reason is that former underlings may harbour feelings of humility and inferiority and may partly admire their victims (often some kind of elite) while denying this admiration. It may mainly be their own admiration that perpetrators try to exterminate through genocide. Genocide would thus be, at least partly, an attempt by perpetrators to ‘purify’ their own confusion and shame over their feelings of humility and admiration in face of the members and characteristics of the victim group.

·        Typical view: Human rights are widely violated and this is a sign of their failing. Important and innovative finding by the author: Human rights awareness is on the increase around the world, and it is this increase that guides the perception and definition of human rights violations. In the old hierarchical honour order humiliation was legitimate and recommended; the fact that violations are at all perceived as such proves how the human rights ideology has permeated societies. The gap between awareness and implementation of human rights, however, creates intense feelings of humiliation. People, who become aware that their demeaning position represents a case of humiliation, feel humiliated until their life conditions have been improved. The transition from awareness to implementation of human rights (political, civil, political, cultural, social, and economic) causes feelings of humiliation that lead to anger, depression and violence.

·        Typical hope: Human rights dignify human beings and diminish suffering. Important and innovative finding by the author: Human rights awareness initially increases suffering. Underlings learn to feel humiliated by their lowly position. They may develop the desire for counter-humiliation and this may lead to violence that in turn forecloses constructive change for a long time.

·        Typical problem: Third parties who wish to mediate often have difficulties gaining the trust of both sides. The research on humiliation rendered the important conceptualisation of the transition from humble to humiliated underlings and contrasted this with the time lag that occurs before masters understand that they cannot keep arrogating illegitimate superiority. This conceptualisation provides a comprehensive image of the overall process of current social change towards human rights, and includes both masters and underlings in such a way that they feel their plight is understood and respected. This conceptualisation does not demonise any conflict party but makes it transparent that both sides are caught in the course of change that triggers a predictable chain of feelings and actions.

·        Typical practice: Current efforts in conflict transformation focus on conflicts of interest between opposing sides and expect that this will ‘solve’ the conflict. The research on humiliation yielded innovative results insofar as it suggests that such a focus may be futile in many cases. This is because even the most difficult conflicts of interest may be solved comparably easily as soon as people are willing to co-operate. The fact that people do not want to co-operate may therefore not be caused by the difficult nature of their conflicting interests, quite the opposite, unwillingness to co-operate may be fuelled by rather distinct sources, namely accumulated feelings of humiliation that hamper openness for compromise. Unless these feelings are attended to, no compromise may be reached or promise of peace fulfilled. The psychological transformation of opponents may therefore be the precondition for any real peace accord, a transformation that may be aided by this research on humiliation. The research led to strong recommendations to third parties regarding the need to focus on the psychological transformation of leaders and followers involved in conflicts – away from extremism towards moderation, on supporting moderate leaders across conflict lines to form alliances, and on diminishing humiliating living conditions for the broad masses who otherwise may be open to manipulation by extremist leaders. This represents an agenda of healing, a ‘moratorium on humiliation.’

Concluding remarks

In conclusion it may be stated that the concept of humiliation is not only exceptionally fertile and interesting in its capacity to bridge several academic disciplines and elements of the human condition and human history, but that it is also extremely timely to do research on humiliation. Not only does it represent a particularly strong emotional force, a force that creates unbridgeable rifts between individuals and groups, including ethnic, cultural and ideological rifts, and a force that can be instrumentalised by leaders for the perpetration of atrocities, even more, the current historic turning point characterised by the advent of ideas of equality and human rights creates feelings of humiliation that were not present before. The current growth of human rights awareness around the world turns former acceptance of inequalities into sufferings from humiliation, and depicts, for example, the currently increasing global and local gap between poor and rich as an even greater human rights violation. The effects of these growing feelings of humiliation call for urgent academic and policy attention.

The author has advanced our knowledge on humiliation from a scattered state, where humiliation was confounded with other notions, to a systematised and comprehensive model of the human condition, both diachronically and synchronically. The author’s systematisations render access to understanding that is useful particularly at the current turning point where formerly recommended practices and institutions of humiliation transcend towards illegitimate violations of human dignity. This transition creates and sets free feelings of humiliation – together with their potential to lead to anger, depression or violence – that require urgent attention by policy makers and academics.

The author provides a platform for a ‘MORATORIUM ON HUMILIATION’ that was not present before, and calls for further research.

List of papers, articles and dissertations

Lindner, E. G. (1996). The Feeling of Being Humiliated: A Central Theme in Armed Conflicts. A Study of the Role of Humiliation in Somalia, and Great Lakes Region, Between the Warring Parties, and in Relation to Third Intervening Parties. Outline of Research Project. Oslo: University of Oslo, project description.

Lindner, E. G. (1998). Humiliation As Psychological Variable in Armed Conflict: What Is Our Common Sense Definition of Humiliation? Oslo: Paper presented at the annual seminar of the Research Programme of the Multilateral Development Assistance Programme at Soria Moria, 19th - 20th February.

Lindner, E. G. (1999). Women in the Global Village: Increasing Demand for Traditional Communication Patterns. In Breines, I., Gierycz, D., & Reardon, B. (Ed.), Towards a Women's Agenda for a Culture of Peace. Paris: UNESCO.

Lindner, E. G. (1999a). 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, 28-29.

Lindner, E. G. (1999b). Humiliation, Genocide, Dictatorship and the International Community. Somalia As a Case Study. Oslo: University of Oslo, film.

Lindner, E. G. (1999c). Humiliation Dynamics and Humiliation Entrepreneurship - the Dyad of Slave and Master. Bujumbura, Burundi: Rapport de la conference internationale sur le role de l'education dans la promotion d'une culture de convivialité et d'edification des communautes, 23rd - 26th February, Ministère de l'Education Nationale.

Lindner, E. G. (2000a). Gendercide and Humiliation in Honour and Human-Rights Societies. In Journal of Genocide Research, forthcoming.

Lindner, E. G. (2000b). Humiliation, Human Rights, and Global Corporate Responsibility. Oslo: University of Oslo, draft, under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2000c). How Globalisation Transforms Gender Relations: the Changing Face of Humiliation. Oslo: University of Oslo, draft under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2000d). Humiliation and Rationality in International Relations. The Role of Humiliation in North Korea, Rwanda, Somalia, Germany, and the Global Village. Oslo: University of Oslo, draft under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2000e). Were Ordinary Germans Hitler's 'Willing Executioners'? Or Were They Victims of Humiliating Seduction and Abandonment? The Case of Germany and Somalia. In IDEA: A Journal of Social Issues, forthcoming.

Lindner, E. G. (2000f). Humiliation - the Worst Form of Trauma: an Analysis Based on Fieldwork in Germany, Rwanda / Burundi, and Somalia. Oslo: University of Oslo, draft under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2000g). The Psychology of Humiliation: Somalia, Rwanda / Burundi, and Hitler's Germany. Oslo: Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, doctoral dissertation.

Lindner, E. G. (2000h). Humiliation in the Flesh. Honour Is "FACE," Arrogance Is "NOSE UP," and Humiliation Is "TO BE PUT DOWN". Oslo: University of Oslo, draft under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2000i). Were Hitler and Siad Barre 'Robin Hoods' Who Felt Humiliated by Their Own Followers? In Medlemsblad for Norske Leger Mot Atomvåpen, Med Bidrag Fra Psykologer for Fred, forthcoming.

Lindner, E. G. (2000j). Recognition or Humiliation - the Psychology of Intercultural Communication. Oslo: University of Oslo, 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 14th - 18th August.

Lindner, E. G. (2000k). Social Constructionism, Logical Positivism, and the Story of Humiliation. Oslo: University of Oslo, draft under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2000l). Humiliation and How to Respond to It: Spatial Metaphor in Action. Oslo: University of Oslo, draft under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2000m). The Anatomy of Humiliation and Its Relational Character. Oslo: University of Oslo, draft under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2000n). The 'Framing Power' of International Organizations, and the Cost of Humiliation. Oslo: University of Oslo, draft under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2000o). Globalisation and Humiliation: Towards a New Paradigm. Oslo: University of Oslo, unpublished manuscript.

Lindner, E. G. (2000p). Humiliation, Rape and Love: Force and Fraud in the Erogenous Zones. Oslo: University of Oslo, draft under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2000q). Hitler, Shame and Humiliation: the Intricate Web of Feelings Among the German Population Towards Hitler. In Medlemsblad for Norske Leger Mot Atomvåpen, Med Bidrag Fra Psykologer for Fred, 1, 28-30.

Lindner, E. G. (2000r). What Every Negotiator Ought to Know: Understanding Humiliation. Oslo: University of Oslo, draft under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2000s). Were the Germans Hitler's 'Willing Executioners'? In Medlemsblad for Norske Leger Mot Atomvåpen, Med Bidrag Fra Psykologer for Fred, 2, 26-29.

Lindner, E. G. (2000t). The Worldhouse. Oslo: Unpublished manuscript.

Lindner, E. G. (2000u). How Humiliation Creates Cultural Differences: the Psychology of Intercultural Communication. Oslo: University of Oslo, draft under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2001a). Towards a Theory of Humiliation: Somalia, Rwanda / Burundi, and Hitler's Germany. Oslo: Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, habilitation thesis (draft).

Lindner, E. G. (2001b). Healing Cycles of Humiliation: Attending to the Emotional Aspects of 'Unsolvable' Conflicts and the Use of 'Humiliation Entrepreneurship'. Oslo: University of Oslo, draft under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2001c). How Research Can Humiliate: Critical Reflections on Method. In Journal for the Study of Peace and Conflict, forthcoming.

Lindner, E. G. (2001d). The Concept of Humiliation: Its Universal Core and Culture-Dependent Periphery. Oslo: University of Oslo, draft under review.

Lindner, E. G. (2001e). Humiliation and the Human Condition: Mapping a Minefield. In Human Rights Review, 2 (2), 46-63.

Table summary

The following tables summarise the above enumerated findings of the research on humiliation:

Clinical experience and a historic hypothesis triggered the interest in research on humiliation

Clinical experience and a historic hypothesis triggered interest in research on humiliation

·         The author’s experience as clinical psychologist (1980-1984 in Germany, 1984-1991 in Egypt) indicated that humiliation is of crucial importance in human relations (‘unforgivable humiliation’).

·         It is often assumed, that the humiliation of the Germans through the Versailles Treaties after World War I was partly responsible for the Holocaust and World War II.

The first overview over literature and a pilot-study (1997-1998) rendered extremely divergent perspectives on the notion of humiliation

·         Humiliation is part of honour societies (Miller, Cohen, Nisbett).

·         Humiliation is the antonym of respect in the context of human rights societies (Smedslund).

·         Humiliation Inventory (Hartling).

·         The Decent Society (Margalit) is a society that ought not to entail humiliating institutions.

·         The results of the pilot study presented humiliation as an intricately complex concept: A perpetrator might want to commit humiliation but not succeed, a ‘benefactor’ might humiliate while trying to do good, a third party might observe ‘victims’ who do not see themselves as such (or fail to see victims in cases where they do exist), or humiliation may be sought instead of despised.

Findings confirmed the initial assumptions

Findings confirm the initial assumption that feelings of humiliation are among the strongest emotions available to human beings

·         Children who are systematically humiliated may not be able to develop the full range of human capacities and become so severely damaged that they show signs of ‘affective blindness’ and lack of empathy.

·         Adults who are exposed to acts of humiliation may become obsessed with and caught within cycles of humiliation and counter-humiliation that entail a whole range of conditions including depression, anger, and violent behaviour.

Findings confirm that feelings of humiliation are among the most potent forces that create rifts between people

The fieldwork suggested that many differences, for example cultural differences, may not be primary, but secondary, namely consequences of processes of humiliation. Experiences of humiliation may lead to the

·         heightening of cultural and ideological antagonisms that otherwise would be

·         played down.

 

New, innovative findings and analyses concerning the global historic development of the human condition

The fieldwork shed light on different societal context in which humiliation occurs

 

·         Pride societies: Humiliation is feared and averted, if necessary at the cost of one’s life (‘a man deserves to be killed, not humiliated’) – it is not endured (egalitarian nomadic society, Somalia).

·         Honour societies: Humiliation is intricately institutionalised and underlings are subjected to routine humiliation by superiors (hierarchical societies, Rwanda/Burundi, Germany before Hitler).

·         Dignity societies: Human rights ideals postulate that each person’s dignity ought to be respected and not humiliated.

Findings were mapped onto human history and the discovery was made that the act and experience of humiliation may be taken as defining parameters of human history

·         Pride: In early human history hunting, gathering and herding practices are characterised by rather egalitarian societal structures. The ‘idea’ of ‘putting down,’ ‘subjugating,’ or ‘instrumentalising’ is introduced, an idea that initially is mainly applied to nature (for example for tool making).

·         Honour: The introduction of agriculture creates a surplus that makes the subjugation of nature + human beings (for example as slaves) viable. This is seen as highly legitimate and it is recommended to superiors to routinely humiliate their subordinates.

·         Dignity: Recent American and French history marks the advent of human rights ideals that squarely oppose the formerly legitimate application of routine humiliation and turn these practices into illegitimate violations of human dignity.

Findings show that reactions to humiliation vary according to the societal setting within which they occur

People may react with depression or anger and violence when humiliated; this is the universal repertoire of responses. However, the fieldwork showed that these responses are played out differently:

·         Pride: In an egalitarian nomad culture such as Somalia, people tend to display open anger and aggression when confronted with attempts to humiliate them.

·         Honour: Reactions of covert anger or depression are to be expected in hierarchical systems such as Rwanda/Burundi or Germany (before Hitler’s rise) where people have been trained, over centuries, to accept humiliation, and some even develop humble acceptance of their lowly position in the hierarchical ranking order.

·         Dignity: Modern human rights societies, in contrast, try to reverse this learning process. They attempt to empower their citizens and teach them self-possession.

Multidisciplinary analysis and synthesis indicate that humiliation – together with other parameters – may be seen as a parameter that defines the human condition

The above-described three historic phases may be viewed through the lens of

·         the Security Dilemma, whether it is weak or strong,

·         the pie of resources, whether it is expandable or fixed,

·         the time horizon, whether it is long or short, and

·         social identity as pertaining to humiliation or respect.

This multidisciplinary model of the human condition may be instrumental to analysing social change over long time stretches and in different world regions, as well as aid future strategy planning for governments and international organisations.

 

Policy relevant findings related to currently occurring transitions

Findings indicate that feelings of humiliation become stronger at the current historic turning point as the act of humiliation becomes illegitimate and at the same time more wide-spread

Central findings of the research – with urgent policy relevance – concern the consequences of the current historic transition from ‘honour humiliation’ to ‘human rights humiliation.’ This transition increases feelings of humiliation in many segments of the world population:

·         Feelings of humiliation increase whenever underlings come to perceive that their condition of subjugation – a condition they may have accepted as divinely ordained or nature’s order – is far from legitimate and represents but illegitimate and humiliating lowliness.

·         Global promotion and awareness of human rights is currently contrasted with an increase of its violations so that the less privileged feel victimised by what they see as humiliation by ‘double standards’ or empty ‘human rights rethoric.’

·         Formerly recommended communication styles that entailed routine humiliation increasingly receive medical labels such as trauma, bullying or mobbing and expand existing diagnostic labels by including processes of humiliation.

The fieldwork revealed that the most intense feelings of humiliation are linked to feelings of admiration

The fieldwork revealed that

·         the most intense feelings of humiliation occur in victims who admire their humiliators.

·        In cases where such victims gain access to means for counter-humiliation this will be carried out with particular brutality and may include genocidal killings.

Findings suggest that the current rise of underlings to the level of equality as described by human rights ideals is characterised by a certain diachronic pattern (that also occurs synchronically)

The results of the research project on humiliation as related to genocide and war show that processes of humiliation are elementary. A certain sequence of actions and reactions characterises the rise of underlings (and this sequence is not only diachronic, but also synchronic):

·         Underlings in traditional hierarchical societies may humbly accept their lowliness as divinely ordained or nature’s order (see notions of penetration, structural violence, Galtung, 1969, 1996). Masters view their superiority in the same terms – they typically assume that their underlings deeply admire and love them and that their domination represents nothing more than parental patronage.

·         Underlings may attempt to rise within ranking orders by imitating elites. Masters typically view this effort with mild sympathy or ridicule.

·         At some point underlings recognise that by imitating masters they do not actually achieve the status of a master or gain respect as an equal (Frantz Fanon, 1986) and they develop feelings of humiliation regarding their lowly position. They may call for major changes of hierarchical structures, even for violence and revolution, and may accuse masters of having illegitimately arrogated their superiority. At this point masters themselves typically experience feelings of humiliation due to the withdrawal of the thankfulness and subservience that they feel entitled to receiving from their underlings. Violent oppression of their underlings may be the masters’ reaction in cases where they stay in power; genocide of the former elite (imagined or real) may the result when underlings gain access to the country’s power instruments (Hutu in Rwanda).

These three stages may occur in the course of macro-historical changes – such as the demise of slavery – however, the same society, even the same person, may harbour all stages and incremental transitions between stages within herself at the same time.

Findings suggest that the current transition towards human rights ideals is characterised by a multitude of confrontations and contradictions

The author found ample evidence for the problems entailed in the current transition to human rights based societal structures. Today’s global society includes

·         promoters of human rights who regard degradation of others as illegitimate,

·         and at the same time representatives of the opposite stance who justify the same practice as highly recommendable.

Findings suggest that the current transition towards human rights ideals can be described by the terms of arrogation, humiliation and humility

The current transition to egalitarian relations may be seen as characterised by underlings who begin feeling humiliated by their lowly position and who accuse masters of having arrogated their superiority. Underlings attempt to rise to the line of equality, and at the same time call for masters to descend to a common level of humility, thus dismantling hierarchy. In contrast, in the traditional honour society underlings typically rose to the level of the master and kept the old hierarchical structure in place.

Findings suggest that feelings of humiliation may drive leaders to perpetrate genocide

Since feelings of humiliation are extremely powerful, leaders who feel humiliated may be prone to guide their followers into the perpetration of atrocities that they present as a form of ‘healing through humiliation.’ This scenario becomes particularly complicated

·         when feelings of humiliation are compounded by feelings of humility and inferiority together with shame about these very feelings. This may be the case, for example, when underlings rise to power and are confronted with the effects of their own former humble acceptance of their lowly state.

·         For long-standing elites oppression of underlings may be ‘sufficient,’ while former underlings – risen to power – may attempt genocide.

Findings confirm the widespread assumption that feelings of humiliation can be instrumentalised by leaders

Since feelings of humiliation have an exceptional force, leaders who wish to accomplish atrocities with the help of a population may be tempted to incite feelings of humiliation among their followers and promote atrocities as a way of ‘healing humiliation.’ This may work even if the story of humiliation is imagined or fabricated and the proposed ‘healing’ not effective.

·         It may be the case that the desire of people for more respect is abused by their leaders insofar as a populace that experiences frustrating and humiliating living conditions is especially prone to fall for fabricated and imagined stories of humiliation.

·         Populations that live under more satisfying conditions and feel that their desire for respect has been met may be less seducible.

Findings and analysis indicate that the current rise of underlings to the level of equality as described by human rights ideals includes many segments of society and many social practices

The above-described sequence of actions and reactions that negotiate the issue of humiliation, is not only relevant for incidents of war and genocide, but also for other contexts within which underlings rebel, namely for

·         women as they rise out of humiliating subjugation by males and patriarchal structures;

·         blacks as they struggle out of a humiliating position in relation to whites;

·         the poor as they try to cope with the increasing gap between themselves and the rich;

·         the struggle between two forms of rationality: rationality as defined as a long-term holistic approach against rationality defined as short-sighted instrumentalisation;

·         nature in its transition from being an object of short-sighted instrumentalisation towards being protected as sustainable fundament of human life.

In all cases feelings of humiliation may be expressed in terms of violence and destructive confrontation that compound an already difficult transition with avoidable secondary problems related to violent cycles of humiliation and counter-humiliation.

 

Epistemological and methodological findings and analyses

Multidisciplinary analysis and synthesis yield the insight that humiliation presents itself as a term that systematically connects many aspects of the human condition and academic scholarship

Humiliation is

·         a societal process (and addresses the legitimacy of subjugation and power asymmetries);

·         a process occurring between ‘humiliators’ and ‘victims’ (and implies an intergroup and interpersonal act);

·         an emotional state (and implies the occurrence of an experience and feeling).

The concept of humiliation thus connects basic research in

·         psychology, as for example research on emotions,

      with large macro-political analyses that include

·         anthropology,

·         sociology,

·         philosophy, and

·         political science.

The fieldwork highlights that the validity of research hinges on non-humiliating research methods

·         Western-style methodology that turns the interlocutor into a mere object humiliates this person – this happens in Western contexts, however, even more in non-Western contexts that carry memories of instrumentalisation through colonisation. Furthermore, the economic gap between the white researcher’s standard of living and the grave lack of resources under which most informants in Africa have to live is in itself humiliating for them.

·         Reflexive dialogue covering the same basic topics with many different people and faithfully capturing their beliefs and feelings was the new method that was developed by the researcher. These dialogues had to be conducted with humility and authenticity on the interviewer’s side. Research data often are being paid for, at least indirectly, insofar as students are obliged to offer their services to researchers, or patients or refugees expect therapy or asylum for their willingness to talk about memories they rather would not be reminded of. However, in cases where the interviewee has no reward but the contact with the researcher during their encounter, the researcher may not be provided with valid data, if she is not entering into an authentic dialogue with her interlocutors.

Multidisciplinary analysis and synthesis yield the insight that the concept of humiliation entails, at least, seven layers

·         The core of the concept of humiliation builds on the universal idea of ‘putting down.’

·         The next layer plays out the core in two diametrically opposing ways, namely on one side, ‘putting down’ as being legitimate and ‘good for you,’ or, on the other side, as illegitimate and traumatising.

·         A first peripheral layer pertains to cultural differences that affect groups of people.

·         Four additional peripheral layers relate to differences in personalities of individuals and the way these differences are linked to experiences of humiliation.

The pervasiveness of acts and feelings of humiliation in all aspects of human life and its multidisciplinary character may be the reason why few researchers have studied humiliation explicitly

Humiliation and shame, for example, are often confounded rather than differentiated. The point of this research is that humiliation, though in many respects related to shame, trauma, and other conditions, deserves to be treated separately, and requires future research and further theoretical conceptualisation that differentiates it from other notions.

 

 

Policy recommendations to third parties who wish to mediate in conflicts or create strategies for future social change

Findings suggest to third parties to ensure that differences are not symptoms of processes of humiliation that call for healing instead of rigidification

The research gave rise to the recommendation to third parties that it is important to understand whether proclaimed differences (cultural, ideological, ethnic, etc.) are

·         primary (and the result of separate cultural development) or

·         secondary (result of processes of humiliation),

since respect for cultural differences becomes a difficult concept in cases where these differences are caused by humiliation. In such cases ‘healing’ may be called for, instead of the rigidification of rifts by a misunderstood concept of respect.

Findings suggest that the important question after the fall of a dictatorship is not impunity or punity for perpetrators, but which impunity or punity

·         Honour society: Many traditional honour hierarchies in the course of history witnessed uprisings that toppled the ruling power elite and replaced it with the successfully risen underling group. Often the former elite was executed or otherwise ‘punished’ for ‘crimes’ that the new elite would continue perpetrating in the same way.

·         Dignity society: The word reconciliation entails a call for the dismantling of hierarchy, not just a replacement of the ruling elite. Reconciliation requires that power elites descend to the line of equality/humility and discontinue competing for power through ‘punishment.’

Findings suggest that reconciliation requires a learning process towards human rights ideals

Findings suggest that the current use of terms such as forgiveness and reconciliation are indications of the ongoing transition towards human rights ideals that takes place at present.

·         Honour society: Humiliating ‘trouble makers’ (for example Kurds in Turkey) is a legitimate tool in order to maintain ‘law and order.’ Power elites feel entitled to use acts that entail humiliation to restore ‘calm.’ They see this as their duty and do not regard humiliation as abuse.

·         Dignity society: Elites who felt entitled to use humiliation to restore order are depicted as perpetrators after their fall. Their behaviour – that fitted the honour code – is judged from the human rights perspective. Most ‘dutiful’ perpetrators are likely to disagree and may have to be taught about human rights values in order to understand the effects of their deeds. This has to be done with respect in order to allow for learning. Only after such learning a perpetrator may accept his or her role as a perpetrator and be open for processes of apology, forgiveness and finally reconciliation.

 

Recommendations for the healing of processes of humiliation

Recommendations for healing humiliation by creating alliances of moderates

The research suggests that healing cycles of humiliation and counter-humiliation can only be brought about when moderate human rights advocates on all sides form alliances against extremists who are driven by obsessive feelings of humiliation. The important fault lines do not run between the camps of opponents (such as Hutu-Tutsi), but between the moderates and the extremists in both camps.

·         Usually conflict resolution efforts concentrate on pacifying relations between opposing groups (such as Hutu-Tutsi).

·         It may be more fertile to focus on the fault lines between moderates and extremists in both camps and attempt to create an alliance between moderates of both camps with the aim of reducing feelings of humiliation among their extremist group members and minimising humiliating living conditions of the broad masses so as to foreclose the opportunity for extremist leaders to instrumentalise feelings of frustration and humiliation among the broad masses.

Third parties may be well advised to pay close attention to fault lines, asking which of those are really relevant and instrumental for peaceful change. Third parties may need to concentrate on supporting moderates of all camps in their attempts to heal feelings of humiliation that fuel violence.

Recommendations for healing feelings of humiliation

Feelings of humiliation may lead to violent protest that triggers cycles of humiliation and counter-humiliation. These are perpetrated and endured by all citizens in societal structures of asymmetrical power that are perceived as illegitimate and humiliating by those at the bottom of the pyramid. In such cases societal structures that have humiliating effects may not be improved, on the contrary, they may deteriorate under conditions of war and violent conflict. This is one way the dynamics humiliation may be played out. However, humiliation may also be overcome peacefully, both as a feeling and as social condition (see the case of Nelson Mandela).

·         To overcome the feeling of humiliation, underlings have to step outside of the master-slave dyad and learn to act autonomously, instead of re-acting to the master’s actions and definitions. This is a psychological process that requires great personal strength.

·         To overcome humiliating social conditions entailed in power asymmetries that violate human rights, underlings need to ‘stand up’ and exercise autonomy. Then they may be able to teach their masters that change is necessary and unavoidable, both normatively and practically, and that a peaceful transition is preferable to war.

Rising underlings who have achieved such autonomy and stature, such as Nelson Mandela, may be called ‘moderates’ who are able to teach both masters and extremist underlings how to tackle the transition from oppressive hierarchy to respectful equality. Moderation is not to be confused with softness; it is autonomous analysis and action (Mandela). Research on humiliation has shed light on the psychological processes that are necessary for peaceful transition, more research is necessary. The important point is that social change towards more human rights awareness and implementation, necessary and difficult as it is, may be compounded with avoidable secondary problems, if feelings of humiliation lead to destructive violence instead of constructive change.

Reflection suggests an important role for globalisation and information technology, or how the global village may entail ‘good’ and ‘bad’ neighbours, but not ‘enemies’

The research on humiliation touched upon important links between the processes of globalisation and the current transition towards human rights. The researcher describes the current human rights revolution as a continuous revolution, powered by information technology and growing interdependence, as opposed to former singular revolutions that soon ended in rigidified structures. A continuous revolution, urging non-humiliating egalitarian relationships and structures, in a global village that has lost the former split into several ‘villages’ (empires, etc.) forecloses also the definition of the term ‘enemy.’ ‘Enemies’ typically are defined as coming from ‘outside,’ and to be sent ‘back’ there. However, a global village does not give room for a traditional ‘outside’ anymore. This indicates the need to integrate ‘bad’ neighbours with non-humiliating methods into the global village and calls for discarding traditional concepts and rules concerning ‘enmity.’

The learning process towards human rights in the global village has succeeded, and reconciliation in disrupted societies is achieved when

·         the term ‘enemy’ has been discarded and replaced by the term

·         ‘bad neighbour,’ who may be transformed into a ‘good neighbour’ or, in some cases, even into a ‘friend.’

Findings and analysis suggest that third parties may want to highlight the beneficial effects of non-humiliating relationships and institutions

Third parties may further learning processes towards non-humiliating relationships and institutions.  They may point out that in an interdependent global village torturing and killing ‘enemies’ will be perceived as an act of humiliation by survivors and third parties, and will not actually result in peace, order and calm; on the contrary, it will lead to violent attempts of counter-humiliation. Conversely, maintaining non-humiliating relationships and structures, as well as healing feelings of humiliation caused by past humiliations, though at the first glance more laborious and time-consuming than brutal oppression, will render long-lasting peace, order and calm and give rise to the stability that is needed for economic development.

 

Findings that were surprising

Several findings of the fieldwork were surprising and contradicted former expectations.

·         Typical expectation: Emotions are to be studied by psychology, institutions by sociology and political science. Important finding by the author: In the case of humiliation many academic fields and aspects of the human condition are interlinked. Humiliation is thus a multidisciplinary topic. This may provide an explanation for the scattered state of scholarship on humiliation and why it has hitherto not been analysed in a similar multidisciplinary and comprehensive manner as carried out by the author.

·         Typical expectation: Detached quantitative methods secure high quality of research. Important finding by the author: Validity may become low when humiliating research methods are applied on human beings in social sciences. An interviewee, turned into an object for research, may feel humiliated, close up and not provide valid data.

·         Typical expectation: Research in social sciences taps the social knowledge of people without preconditions. Important finding of the author: It is often forgotten that interviewees are indirectly rewarded for opening up (students, patients, refugees), while interviewees in many real life situations lack this reward. Interviewees, especially in non-Western contexts, may not be motivated to speak about difficult experiences just for the sake of research, let alone provide valid data. The researcher has to win the trust and interest of interviewees in a respectful and non-humiliating way and has to convince them to become co-researchers.

·         Typical expectation: We cannot learn from history since history has no systematic direction. Findings: The application of the idea of subjugation on the abiotic and biotic world – invented, expanded and opposed – represents a coherent conceptualisation of human history. The current transition to human rights-based relationships and institutions creates problems that are predictable and preventable by attention to the notion of humiliation.

·         Typical expectation: The end of history (Fukuyama, 1993). Findings: The author’s findings support Ury’s (1999) speculations concerning modern knowledge society’s return to former nomadic egalitarianism.

·         Typical expectation: Africa is homogeneous. Finding: Africa is not homogenous. Somalia with its pride culture marks one extreme pole of a continuum that stretches from egalitarian societal structures to hierarchical structures, while Rwanda/Burundi and pre-Hitler’s Germany with their extreme hierarchies and honour rankings mark the other pole.

·         Typical expectation: Ethnicity plays a large role in violence currently to be observed around the world. Important and innovative finding by the author: Rifts pertaining to culture, ethnicity, ideology, religion of conflicting interests may be the result of dynamics of humiliation rather than primary differences. Thus the theory of humiliation marks a point in academic thinking were relations between players – entailing humiliation or respect – are seen as central explanatory factor, as opposed to explanations that are based on various static contents related to religion (religious strife), ideology (Cold War), ethnicity (current paradigm of explanation), culture and civilisation (Huntington, 1996) or conflicting interests (competition for water and land, etc). The theory of humiliation highlights the malleability of expressions of difference according to the degree of existing feelings of humiliation between players.

·         Typical expectation: Victims of humiliation loathe their humiliators. Important finding: The most intense feelings of humiliation may occur in victims who admire their humiliators. In cases where such victims gain access to means for counter-humiliation this will be carried out with particular brutality and may include genocidal killings.

·         Typical expectation: Long-standing elites that fear loss of power perpetrate genocide. Important and innovative finding by the author: It may rather be the case that former underlings, risen to power, perpetrate genocides.

·         Typical expectation: Human rights are widely violated and this is a sign of their failing. Important and innovative finding by the author: Human rights awareness is on the increase around the world, and it is this increase that guides the perception and definition of human rights violations. In the old hierarchical honour order humiliation was legitimate and recommended; the fact that violations are at all perceived as such proves how the human rights ideology is permeating societies. The gap between awareness and implementation of human rights, however, creates intense feelings of humiliation.

·         Typical expectation: Human rights dignify human beings and diminish suffering. Important and innovative finding by the author: Human rights awareness initially increases suffering. Underlings learn to feel humiliated by their lowly position. They may develop the desire to counter-humiliate their humiliators and this may lead to violence that forecloses constructive change for a long time.

·         Typical expectation: Conflicts are often characterised by an antagonism between masters and underlings (who attempt to rise or have recently risen). Third parties who wish to mediate often have problems gaining the trust of both sides. The research on humiliation rendered the important conceptualisation of the transition from humble to humiliated underlings and contrasted this with the time lag that occurs before masters understand that they cannot keep arrogating illegitimate superiority. This conceptualisation provides a comprehensive image of the overall process of current social change towards human rights, and includes both masters and underlings in such a way that they feel their plight is understood and respected. This conceptualisation does not demonise any conflict party but makes it transparent that both sides are caught in the course of change that triggers a predictable chain of feelings and actions.

·         Typical expectation: Current efforts in conflict transformation focus on conflicts of interest between opposing sides and expect that this will ‘solve’ the conflict. The research on humiliation yielded innovative results insofar as it suggests that such a focus may be futile. This is because even the most difficult conflicts of interest may be solved comparably easily as soon as people co-operate. The fact that people do not co-operate may therefore not be caused by the difficult nature of their conflicting interests, quite the opposite, unwillingness to co-operate may be fuelled by rather distinct sources, namely accumulated feelings of humiliation that hamper any compromise. Unless these feelings are attended to, no compromise may be reached or promise of peace fulfilled. The psychological transformation of opponents may therefore be the precondition for any real peace accord, a transformation that may be aided by this research on humiliation. The research led to strong recommendations to third parties regarding the need to focus on the psychological transformation of leaders and followers involved in conflicts away from extremism towards moderation, on supporting moderate leaders across conflict lines to form alliances, and on diminishing humiliating living conditions for the broad masses who otherwise may be open to manipulation by extremist leaders. This represents an agenda of healing, a moratorium on humiliation.