Equal Dignity and Purity for All (EDPA)

HumanDHS is primarily grounded in academic work. We are independent of any religious or political agenda. However, we wish to bring academic work into "real life." Our research focuses on topics such as dignity (with humiliation as its violation), or, more precisely, on respect for equal dignity for all human beings in the world. This is not only our research topic, but also our core value, in line with Article 1 of the Human Rights Declaration that states that every human being is born with equal dignity (that ought not be humiliated). We agree with Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development, who advocates the building of bridges from academia as follows, "I have always believed that good scholarship can be relevant and consequential for public policy. It is possible to affect public policy without being an advocate; to be passionate about peace without losing analytical rigor; to be moved by what is just while conceding that no one has a monopoly on justice." We would like to add that we believe that good scholarship can be relevant and consequential not only for public policy, but for raising awareness in general.

We look for interested people, who would like to develop our EDPA page. Please see our Call for Creativity.

Ohta Kyoji, Chief Curator of the Human Rights Museum in Osaka, Japan, in a personal conversation with Lindner (7th February 2005), explained how the idea of impurity and pollution is often linked to discrimination. In many parts of the world, people who are doing "cleaning" work, also if it is "spiritual cleaning" (certain types of entertainment), are perceived as being "polluted" by the "dirt" they clean away and they are then excluded from society.

Mary Douglas addresses these topics in her work, among others in Purity and Danger (1966, see a summary at www.bytrent.demon.co.uk, see an overview also further down).

Lindner got acquainted with this phenomenon in many places, in Cairo with the zabalin (see e.g. Unni Wikan's work on the Life Among the Poor in Cairo, Tavistock, 1980), or in Somalia with the so-called minorities (see further down), and, in 2004/5, in Japan, with the buraku.

Mary Douglas (1921-Present, Britain)

The following text was created by the EMuseum:

Mary Douglas is a symbolic anthropologist who examines how people give meanings to their reality and how this reality is expressed by their cultural symbols. She has believed that humans actively create meanings in their social lives in order to maintain their society. By analyzing these meanings, Douglas attempted to find universal patterns of symbolism.

Douglas gained wide recognition by her publication Purity and danger: An analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo. In the book, Douglas cross-culturally examined people's definition of impurity and argued that pollutants play an important role in maintaining social structures. For example, in the Lele culture of Zaire, people have rules for protecting themselves from what they define as polluted, such as the following: feces, blood, military groups, milk, used clothing, and sexual intercourse. Another example is the Old Testament, whose dietary rules define dozens of unclean animals. Obviously, these two examples are not about hygiene, but about moral symbols based on people's concepts of impurity. By defining what is polluted, people classify their social life into two opposite categories: what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. This symbolic system gives moral order to societies. Douglas further argued that in societies where the categories of purity and pollutants are rigid, people have developed secular and religious rituals to keep themselves physically and morally pure. She claimed that these practices enforce the symbolic system and keep order in the society.

Douglas' analysis on the links between symbolic classifications and social systems leads to her next book, Natural symbols . In this book Douglas claimed that all societies can be compared by their two cultural dimensions: group and grid. Group is the degree of division between insiders and outsiders of a society. Grid refers to rules that relate individuals to one another. For example, in a society with strong grid and strong group, individuals are regulated for the sake of the group. Within the group clearly defined social sectors, such as classes, castes and age-grades, play specialized roles that are beneficial to the whole society. This type of society tends to be larger than others and lasts longer due to less internal conflict. On the other hand, in a society with low grid and low group, people are viewed more as individuals than as a part of the group. Due to the lack of group mentality, all social classifications are negotiable and people can transact and transfer social position freely. However, this type of society has political laws to regulate individuals. In such a society, egalitarian individualism is a predominant social value. As seen in these two examples, Douglas classified different societies based on her grid and group categories. Then, she linked these two variables to other dimensions of culture, such as economic and political aspects.

In addition to classic anthropological analysis, Douglas has dealt with contemporary issues such as the following: environmental regulation, religious revivalism, social justice, AIDS and its contamination, consumer society, and aesthetic taste. What is radical about her analysis is that instead of classifying human societies into different categories, that require different analysis criteria, Douglas applies the same principles to all societies.

Barfield, Thomas (1996). The Dictionary of Anthropology. Malden: Blackwell.
Barnard, Alan, and Jonathan Spencer (1997). Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology. London; New York: Routledge.
Moore, Jerry D. (1998) Visions of Culture: An Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.

This text was created by Minnesota State University, Mankato student.

On "Cleaning"

The following text is adapted from Humiliation - A New Basis for Understanding, Preventing, and Defusing Conflict and Violence in the World and Our Lives by Lindner, 2003, pp 91-92:

When I talk about female or male roles, I refer to them as a set of culturally determined recipes or prescriptions or templates. I see those roles as sets of how-to-do and how-to-be rules, which are assimilated from birth by every individual.

Though men usually were the warriors and explorers, and not women, men did not only conquer the unknown as warriors, explorers or discoverers. Men were farmers, too, and cared for the maintenance of cycles and networks as women did. Trade especially combines "male" and "female" role patterns, since it requires going out into the unknown to find new products and clients, but after having established new trade connections it subsequently requires their maintenance.

Thus, I do not wish to condone any bias, not that women are better people, nor men. Positive bias would be as misplaced as negative bias. The two gender role templates offer tools for both construction and destruction. We can concede that there nowadays is an urgent need for the more "female" holistic thinking, on the ecological and on the social level. Respecting biological cycles and caring for social peace are notions which are currently gaining ever increasing importance. On the other hand, one should not overlook the fact that unidirectional thinking can be an important tool for, for example, innovation; admittedly it can be destructive, but it can also be constructive.

Furthermore, there is the cleaning aspect (see work on Purity and Danger by Douglas, 1984a, Douglas, 1984b ) entailed in the "female" maintenance tasks. This cleaning aspect can be extremely destructive, especially when it bases itself on the concept of an outside sphere around it. Not only at the ecological level, cleaning can go too far, as can be seen, for example, when women wash clothes white with heavily polluting agents. Also on the social level, this cleaning aspect offers the conceptual framework for damage, destruction and even atrocities. One has just to think of ethnic cleansing. With the metaphor that something needs to be thrown out from inside into some kind of black hole that is imagined outside , environmental and social atrocities can be "justified" and incited. (Barrington Moore, in Moral Purity and Persecution in History, Princeton University Pres, 2000, explains that people persecute those whom they perceive as polluting due to their "impure" religious, political, or economic ideas.)

The German army was involved in ethnic cleansing during the Second World War, but tried to deny this involvement since for a soldier this is not a "male" enough task. Soldiers typically are entitled to be proud of a war against an attacking enemy, and wear medals afterwards, but not of ethnic cleansing. Killing defenseless people smacks of "female" cleaning activity and thereby lack of bravery. In an attempted justification, the killing of Jews in concentration camps was equated with having to eradicate "dirt" or "pests" like rats or weeds, something which the SS were persuaded to do as an unavoidable although "mean" and not very honorable duty in order to save the German race (see, for example, Heinrich Himmler's speeches).

Douglas, Mary (1984a). Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Ark Paperbacks.
Douglas, Mary (1984b). Purity and danger: an analysis of the concepts of pollution and taboo. London: Ark Paperbacks.
Moore, Barrington, Jr. (2000). Moral Purity and Persecution in History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

On Outcasts in Somalia

The following text is adapted from The Psychology of Humiliation: Somalia, Rwanda / Burundi, and Hitler's Germany by Lindner, 2000, p. 260:

The lower castes or sab (as opposed to 'noble' or gob), today also called 'minorities' (who may be in the majority in certain places), are the Yebir (or 'Hebrew'), Madiban (also called Midgan, a derogatory name, as their members told me) and the Tomal : 'Physically, the lower caste groups do not look different from the other Somalis, but they had different social status and were not mixed in marriage with the other Somalis. The yebir group were occupied with leather work, e.g., saddlery, scabbards, shoe making. The midgan were normally armed with small daggers, bows and poisoned arrows; they engaged in hunting and mainly collected myrrh and frankincense for which the land of Punt was famous. The tomal were the blacksmiths. They engaged in iron work and fashioned all kinds of traditional arms' (Hussein, in Adam & Ford, 1997, 167, italicisation in orginal). ...

Please continue reading on ../documents/evelin/DissertationPsychology.pdf, page 261.

Hussein, S. (1997). Somalia , a Destroyed Country and a Defeated Nation. In Adam, H. M. & Ford, R. (Eds.), Mending Rips in the Sky: Options for Somali Communities in the 21st Century. Lawrenceville , NJ , and Asmara , Eritrea : The Red Sea Press.


Please note that the entire HumanDHS website is maintained by volunteers since its inception in 2003, and this is mainly done by Evelin Lindner. Until 2012, she usually pasted interesting news into this Links section, since July 2012, she also tags interesting information here.

Civil Paths to Peace: Report of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding
9 November 2007
“Group violence through systematic instigation is not only – perhaps not even primarily – a military challenge. It is fostered in our divisive world through capturing people's minds and loyalties, and through exploiting the allegiance of those who are wholly or partly persuaded.” -- Amartya Sen

Tribal Peoples Not Stone Age and Primitive Say Experts
Survival International Press Release, 5 March 2007
The Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA), the UK's professional body for anthropologists, has condemned the use of terms like 'stone age' and 'primitive' to describe tribal and indigenous peoples alive today. The condemnation comes in the wake of controversial comments made on the BBC by Baroness Jenny Tonge, the Liberal Democrat peer, who called the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert 'stone age' and 'primitive.'
The ASA has become the latest supporter of Survival International's campaign against racism in the media which challenges the use of terms like 'stone age', 'primitive' and 'savage' to describe tribal and indigenous peoples. Other supporters include prominent journalists such as John Simpson, John Pilger and George Monbiot.
The ASA statement reads, 'All anthropologists would agree that the negative use of the terms 'primitive' and 'Stone Age' to describe [tribal peoples] has serious implications for their welfare. Governments and other social groups. . . have long used these ideas as a pretext for depriving such peoples of land and other resources.'