Dignity, Humiliation, and the Erosion of the Humanities

Mendible, Myra
August 2012
International Journal of the Humanities;2012, Vol. 9 Issue 5, p189
Academic Journal
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.


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