Last week I participated in one of the highlights of the year for me, the annual two-day workshop on transforming humiliation and violent conflict, sponsored by Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies. HumanDHS is a global network of scholars, practitioners, students, artists, and activists committed to the advancement of human dignity and to the ending of humiliating practices. Every December we gather at our host organization, Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York City, and immerse ourselves in highly interactive exchanges amidst a spirit of fellowship.
The workshop is built around the general theme of “Transforming Humiliation and Violent Conflict,” joined by a major sub-theme, this year’s being “The Nature of Dignity and the Dignity of Nature.” Previous sub-themes have included “The Globalization of Dignity” (2016), “Honoring Alfred Nobel’s Message” (2015), and “Work that Dignifies the Lives of All People” (2014). Over the course of two days, upwards of 60-75 people participate in this workshop, including a fair number who travel from outside the U.S.
A defining characteristic of these events is a series of interactive “dignilogues” using these two formats: (1) groupings of short presentations on a wide range of topics by individuals invited to discuss their work, followed by questions and discussion; and, (2) break-out sessions on topics chosen by participants, followed by short presentations to the full conference from each break-out group. Addresses, talks, music, artistic work, awards, and an open public event are also blended into the workshop.
I’ve been sharing my participation in this workshop every year since starting this blog. This gathering is a source of hope, fellowship, insight, and refueling for me. My role with HumanDHS has grown substantially since my original contact with this remarkable group of people. In addition to sitting on the HumanDHS board of directors, I help to facilitate workshop sessions and participate in the dignilogues. And during the last few years, I’ve added my singing pipes to the mix, helping to lead the group in a closing rendition of “What a Wonderful World,” doing my best to channel my inner Louis Armstrong!
To learn more about HumanDHS, check out its fulsome website. It is very heavy in content and not much for graphics — more of an archive than a fancy showpiece! You can also read this piece that I wrote in 2014, “Creating an intellectual framework for human dignity,” which describes the core activities of the network.