Linda Hartling, associate director of the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, was an invited presenter at the first annual Meeting on Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies in Paris this fall. The meeting was coordinated by Evelin Lindner of the University of Oslo and hosted by the French Maison des Sciences de l’Homme. Using Relational-Cultural Theory as a theoretical foundation, Hartling’s talk explored the complex dynamics of shame and humiliation that can lead to profound and enduring psychological and social problems. On the basis of the research she has done to develop a scale that will assess cumulative experiences of humiliation and fear of humiliation, she proposed possibilities for interrupting and transforming these life-damaging experiences. Other presenters examined the connection between humiliation and armed conflict, using the examples of Somalia and Rwanda; the systemic humiliation of subjugated groups in Africa; and the treatment of women in postwar Iraq.
The meeting on October 12-13 launched an international, interdisciplinary network of scholars and activists who will work collaboratively to understand, prevent, alleviate, and eliminate the pervasive and destructive consequences of derision and degradation. The network, which envisions collective efforts promoting dignity and mutual respect for all people, is the first step in the founding of a center for human dignity and humiliation studies, to be anchored at Columbia University in New York.