Creating an intellectual framework for human dignity

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As I’ve written here on numerous occasions, Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS) is a global network of scholars, activists, practitioners, and students who are committed to advancing human dignity in our society. In this blog post, I’d like to put a more complete frame around HumanDHS’s activities and highlight three of its emerging initiatives.

The founding president of HumanDHS is Evelin Lindner, a physician, psychologist, prolific author, and self-styled global citizen. The director of HumanDHS is Linda Hartling, a psychologist and leading authority on relational-cultural theory whose spot-on assessment of workplace cultures is cited often in this blog. With a group of colleagues from around the world, they are stoking the flames for individual and social change.

I am affiliated with HumanDHS as a member of its Global Advisory Board, and I have become a regular participant at the annual New York workshop (see below). This is one of my most treasured connections.

Emerging HumanDHS initiatives

In addition to sponsoring workshops, conferences, and other gatherings on a global scale, here are three HumanDHS initiatives that are getting off the ground and offering a lot of promise for the future.

World Dignity University

HumanDHS is creating the World Dignity University, a flexible, globally networked initiative that fosters higher learning on dignity-related subjects and themes. Here’s part of WDU’s mission statement:

We have come to believe that a “World University” — a human-to-human network of networks — is a powerful and highly practical approach to realizing an inclusive and creative model of learning. We invite educators, scholars, practitioners, activists, learners, and people from all walks of life, from all corners of the earth, to share responsibility for leading the world toward greater cooperation by joining us in founding the first World Dignity University.

With your participation, the World Dignity University will become a global role model of excellence in scholarship. dignifying dialogue, and intellectual cooperation that ensures the survival of humankind and the planet.

Dignity Press

In 2012, HumanDHS launched the Dignity Press, which publishes professionally edited and designed books that examine human dignity and humiliation from a global perspective. Since its founding, the Dignity Press has published some 15 titles.

Journal of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies

HumanDHS is publishing the Journal of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, an “online, peer-reviewed scholarly publication…designed to advance the study of dynamics of dignity and humiliation, the antecedents and consequences of humiliating behaviors, and interventions to break cycles of humiliation and restore human dignity.”

More than academic-speak: Why a new university, book press, and academic journal?

Earlier this year, I issued a critique of traditional institutions of higher learning:

Suffice it to say that American higher education, as a general proposition, is embracing the values of the New Gilded Age. A growing number of American colleges and universities are degenerating into career training centers, touting unpaid internships while charging sky-high tuition, neglecting the liberal arts, and loading up on well-paid administrators and exploited adjunct faculty while shedding full-time professors.

These trends are disturbing in and of themselves. Moreover, they raise a challenging question: If universities are heading in this direction, what institutions, structures, and networks will help us to blend research, theory, and service toward creating a better society? And how do we create decent, paying, sustainable jobs to support this work?

To achieve this, we need to create new institutions that show promise of filling some of that growing void. Between the World Dignity University, Dignity Press, and Journal of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, HumanDHS is creating an intellectual infrastructure around the concept of human dignity that transcends national boundaries and institutional lines. To be sure, HumanDHS must expand its breadth in order to have a wider degree of influence.  It also must find ways to support sustainable intellectual work. These initiatives are a start. They have the potential to advance that core change, and it will be exciting to take part in their development.

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December event in New York City

During December 4th and 5th, I’ll be participating in HumanDHS’s annual Workshop on Transforming Humiliation and Violent Conflict, hosted by Teachers College of Columbia University in New York City. The theme of this year’s workshop is “Work that Dignifies the Lives of All People.” I will be a featured speaker at the Workshop’s free public event on Thursday, December 4, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., discussing how we can advance dignity at work. If you’re in the NYC area and free that evening, please consider joining us!

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