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Few researchers have studied humiliation explicitly. In many cases the term humiliation is not differentiated from other concepts; humiliation and shame, for example, are often used exchangeably, among others by Silvan S. Tomkins (1962-1992) whose work is carried further by Donald L. Nathanson. Nathanson describes humiliation as a combination of three innate affects out of altogether nine affects, namely as a combination of shame, disgust and dissmell (Nathanson in a personal conversation, October 1, 1999).
In Lindner's work (see a summary, as narrative, or as table), humiliation is distinctly addressed on its own account and differentiated from other concepts. Humiliation is, for example, not regarded simply as a variant of shame. Dennis Smith, professor of sociology at Loughborough University, UK and founder of LOGIN, has been introduced to the notion of humiliation through Lindner's research and has since incorporated the notion actively into his work in a fascinating way.
The view that humiliation may be a particularly forceful phenomenon is supported by the research of, for example, Suzanne M. Retzinger (1991) and Thomas J. Scheff and Retzinger (1991), who studied shame and humiliation in marital quarrels. They show that the suffering caused by humiliation is highly significant and that the bitterest divisions have their roots in shame and humiliation. Also W. Vogel and Lazare (1990) document unforgivable humiliation as a very serious obstacle in couples' treatment. Robert L. Hale (1994) addresses The Role of Humiliation and Embarrassment in Serial Murder. Humiliation has also been studied in such fields as love, sex and social attractiveness, depression, society and identity formation, sports, history, literature and film.
Linda Hartling (1999) pioneered a quantitative questionnaire on humiliation (Humiliation Inventory) where a rating from 1 to 5 is employed for questions measuring being teased, bullied, scorned, excluded, laughed at, put down, ridiculed, harassed, discounted, embarrassed, cruelly criticized, treated as invisible, discounted as a person, made to feel small or insignificant, unfairly denied access to some activity, opportunity, or service, called names or referred to in derogatory terms, or viewed by others as inadequate, or incompetent. The questions probe the extent to which respondents had felt harmed by such incidents throughout life, and how much they feared such incidents.
Scheff and Retzinger extended their work on violence and Holocaust and studied the part played by humiliated fury (Scheff, 1997, p. 11) in escalating conflict between individuals and nations ( Scheff, 1988; Scheff, 1990a; Scheff, 1990b; Scheff, 1997). Also psychiatrist James Gilligan (1996) focuses on humiliation as a cause for violence, in his book Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and How to Treat It. Vamik D. Volkan and Joseph Montville carry out important work on psycho-political analysis of intergroup conflict and its traumatic effects, as does Blema S. Steinberg (1996). Furthermore, Ervin Staub's work is highly significant, he is a great name in peace psychology. The Journal of Primary Prevention devoted a special issue to the topic of humiliation in 1991, 1992, and 1999, as did the journal Social Research in 1997, stimulated by the Decent Society by Margalit (1996).
Nisbett and Cohen (1996) examine an honor-based notion of humiliation. The honor to which Cohen and Nisbett refer is the kind that operates in the more traditional branches of the Mafia or, more generally, in blood feuds. The present author is familiar with this scenario as a result of working for seven years as a psychological counselor in Egypt. Within a blood feud culture it may be honorable and even highly obligatory to "heal" humiliation by killing a targeted person. The opposite is true in a society where universal human rights are recognized and "healing" humiliation means restoring the victim's dignity by empathic dialogue, sincere apology, and finally reconciliation.
William Ian Miller (1993) wrote a book entitled Humiliation and Other Essays on Honor, Social Discomfort, and Violence , where he links humiliation to honor as understood in The Iliad or Icelandic sagas, namely humiliation as violation of honor. Miller explains that these concepts are still very much alive today, despite a common assumption that they are no longer relevant. Miller suggests, "that we are more familiar with the culture of honor than we may like to admit. This familiarity partially explains why stories of revenge play so well, whether read as The Iliad, an Icelandic saga, Hamlet, many novels, or seen as so many gangland, intergalactic, horror, or Clint Eastwood movies. Honor is not our official ideology, but its ethic survives in pockets of most all our lives. In some ethnic (sub)cultures it still is the official ideology, or at least so we are told about the cultures of some urban black males, Mafiosi, Chicano barrios, and so on. And even among the suburban middle class the honor ethic is lived in high school or in the competitive rat race of certain professional cultures" (Miller, 1993, p. 9).
There is a significant literature in philosophy on the politics of recognition, claiming that people who are not recognized suffer humiliation and that this leads to violence (see also Honneth, 1997, on related themes). Max Scheler set out these issues in his classic book Ressentiment (1912/1961). In his first period of work, for example in his The Nature of Sympathy (1913/1954), Scheler focuses on human feelings, love, and the nature of the person. He states that the human person is at bottom a loving being, ens amans, who may feel ressentiment.
This overview does not exhaust the contributions to be found in the literature on the topic of humiliation - or rather on related issues, since, to my awareness, only Miller, Hartling, and the two above-mentioned journals explicitly put the word and concept of humiliation at the centre of their attention. In later chapters other authors will also be introduced and cited.
However, as soon as we turn to issues that are related to humiliation then a wide field of research opens up: Research on mobbing and bullying touches upon the phenomenon of humiliation and should therefore be included. Research on mobbing and bullying leads over to the field of prejudice and stigmatization, which in turn draws on research on trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD, aggression (see further down), power and conflict, stress, and last but not least emotions.
Conflict and peace are topics that have been widely studied; thousands of publications are to be found that cover a wide range of conflicts, from interpersonal to intergroup and international conflict. The search word terrorism renders thousands of hits in databases. Instead of presenting large lists of publications at this point I would like to mention some of those that had particular significance for this research project on humiliation. A pioneer of conflict studies in social psychology was Morton Deutsch, the founder of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR) at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York. Also Herbert C. Kelman was among the first to work in this field.
Lee D. Ross, principal investigator and co-founder of the Stanford Center on Conflict and Negotiation (SCCN), addresses psychological barriers to conflict resolution. William Ury, Director of the Project on Preventing War at Harvard University, and co-author of Getting to Yes, and author of Getting to Peace focuses in his anthropological work on conflict. Monty Marshall, founding director of the Integrated Network for Societal Conflict Research (INSCR) program at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM), University of Maryland, wrote a seminal book on protracted conflict and the hypothesis of diffusion of insecurity (Marshall, 1999). Bar-On and Nadler (1999) call for more attention to be given to conflicts in contexts of power asymmetry.
In the past years innumerable university departments and institutes have been created that carry in their names terms that address conflict and peace. I was in touch with many institutions, centers, departments, and programs, among others with UNESCO΄s Culture of Peace Programme, as well as with the Eastern Mennonite University, EMU, Harrisonburg, with Howard Zehr, Hizkias Assefa, and Ronald S. Kraybill, and the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, in Sweden . In Norway the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO, the first peace research institute ever founded), the Norwegian Institute of Human Rights, the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), as well as the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, are central to the international discourse on conflict and peace, and many of the researchers working at these institutions gave invaluable advice to the humiliation project. Norway has also produced one of the most renowned peace researchers, Johan Galtung, whose broad peace activities now cover the globe and have grown far beyond his beginnings in Norway.
In cases where humiliation shall be studied in cross-cultural settings, cross-cultural psychology has to be included, and the anthropological, sociological and philosophical embeddedness of processes of humiliation in different cultural contexts has to be addressed. If humiliation between groups or even nations is to be studied then history and political science play a central role, too.