Dignity, Identity and Power

MAS 624

Course Description: How do patterns of domination and injustice shape what’s going on on the global stage, and in communities closer to home?  How does inequality (real or perceived) drive people to form identity groups or populist movements? How does today’s media coverage shape the conversation? In this course, we will explore ways of understanding these problems that seek to restore civil discourse. We will engage recent scholarship across disciplines calling for a closer examination of the roles of humiliation, dignity and ‘the politics of resentment’ in history and in our time.

In our increasingly globalized world, we have unprecedented opportunities to learn from and with people and cultures different from our own. But in many cases, where some see opportunity, others see and experience threat. Terrorist groups attack nations that they believe have marginalized and disrespected them. In countries throughout the world, we see anti-immigration activity organized by nationalist groups, who believe they are defending a threatened ‘core’ identity. Other groups react against the economic or security threat they believe these ‘outsiders’ pose.

Some believe our world has always been ordered by a competition for domination; for millennia, cultures of honor everywhere have sought to dominate or retaliate against others to secure resources and respect. But are these stances productive, sustainable, or inevitable? Can new ways of thinking about identity help us to defuse some of the violence and misunderstanding in the world today?

Course Summary: A broad overview of the course content and learning outcomes.

Course Readings (subject to change):

Jan-Werner Muller, What is Populism?

Francis Fukuyama, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment

Evelin Lindner, Honor, Humiliation and Terror (excerpts)

Professor: See the list of all MAAS faculty.