Dignity, Humiliation, and the Erosion of the Humanities

By Myra Mendible.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Most notions about human rights are based on our understanding of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document created in the aftermath of World War II that codifies fundamental moral claims about the rights of all individuals “without distinction of any kind.” It proclaims “the inherent dignity” and “inalienable rights of all members of the human family” and specifically includes language prohibiting “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” This stricture is also included in the Geneva Convention, a set of treaties aimed at protecting individuals during times of war or armed conflicts. Common Article 3, so called because it is included in all four treaties, specifically condemns “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” and does so “in all circumstances” and “at any time and in any place whatsoever.”

My presentation will examine Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions in a post 9/11, post-humanist America, exploring the ways that images of “humiliating and degrading treatment” mediate the experience of postmodern warfare and shape our identity as citizens, spectators, and moral actors. I focus specific attention on the contingent role that witnesses play in the structure and significance of the humiliation triangle, a role that complicates how the act is judged and impinges on Article 3’s enforceability.

Keywords: Humiliation, Human Dignity, Human Rights Geneva Conventions, War on Terror, Emotion

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp.189-200. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 757.808KB).

Dr. Myra Mendible

Department Chair, Language and Literature Department, Florida Gulf Coast University, Ft Myers, FL, USA

Myra Mendible is Professor in the Languages and Literature Department and Interim Director of the Judaic, Holocaust, and Human Rights Center at Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers. She was co-founder of the English program at FGCU, and has taught a range of courses in ethnicity and politics, cultural theory, and gender studies. Dr. Mendible has presented her research at both national and international conferences, published widely in a variety of peer-reviewed journals, and is the Editor of two interdisciplinary anthologies, From Bananas to Buttocks: The Latina Body in Popular Culture (University of Texas Press, 2007) and Race 2008: Critical Reflections on an Historic Campaign (Brown Walker Press 2010).

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