Monday Seminar: Evelin Lindner: "From Humiliation, Vengeance, and Genocide to Reconciliation: Experiences from Rwanda"

In June 2015, the 25th Annual Dignity Conference took place in Kigali, Rwanda, see www.humiliationstudies.org/whoweare/annualmeeting/25.php. In March, however, it seemed that the conference could not happen.

The reason was that Evelin Lindner's doctoral dissertation, titled The Psychology of Humiliation: Somalia, Rwanda / Burundi, and Hitler's Germany (UiO, 2000), seemingly, was misinterpreted as condoning genocide as an understandable and thus legitimate outcome of humiliation.

Humiliation may lead to violence

Clearly, the actual message of Lindner's dissertation – indeed, of her entire work – is the stark opposite: since humiliation may lead to violence, in order to avoid this outcome, humiliation must be better understood. Yet, and this is of utmost importance, understanding is not to be confounded with condoning.
There is no automatism in humiliation necessarily leading to violence, and, furthermore, rather than healing humiliation, cycles of violence only humiliate all involved, including its perpetrators. Since 2003, Rwanda has enacted a number of laws prohibiting “genocide ideology”, “genocide minimisation” and “negationism.”
The National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) was founded in 2007. Charges of terrorism and threats to national security have been brought against those indicted.

Efforts to manifest the ideal that "every human being is born equal in dignity and rights"

Lindner reports from her personal experience of the psychological dynamics of the cross-pressure that arises between traditional strategies of securing power by domination and efforts to manifest the ideal that "every human being is born equal in dignity and rights." The commons dilemma and the security dilemma are powerful frames for the transition to this ideal, and success or failure is not a question of abstract game theory.
Compelling psychological dynamics are involved that every person experiences - or every community or nation, for that matter - when facing adversity. This is not restricted to far-flung places. In an atmosphere of fear, traditional power-over strategies that seemed long forgotten tend to re-surface even in the most peace-minded social contexts.

Published Mar. 4, 2016 2:50 PM