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Ruth Kitchen

For Sartre, shame is not an ethical but an ontological experience. With this in mind, the article examines the philosophical connection between shame and ambiguity through analysis of the experiences of abortion and the Nazi Occupation. The article demonstrates how Beauvoir develops Sartre's ontological notion of shame into an ethical philosophy of ambiguity as a result of wartime experiences. It demonstrates how encounters with shame, abortion, ambiguity and Occupation life in Beauvoir's 1945 novel Le sang des autres elucidate and are developed by Sartre and Beauvoir's philosophies of shame and ambiguity. The paper proposes that Sartre's and Beauvoir's thought was shaped by living through the Nazi Occupation and reveals how the memory of wartime shame is activated in contemporary ethical dilemmas in later literary works of both writers.

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Gina Crivello

In this article I review concepts related to honour and shame and explore how these are understood within the context of the contemporary Moroccan Rif, a Berber-speaking region that is characterised by outsiders as closed and 'conservative', despite its long-established history of out-migration and transnational ties to Europe. The article argues that despite many changes to the political, economic and social landscapes of the Rif, understandings of honour and shame continue to shape gender hierarchies among Riffian Moroccans. As part of a broader system in which individuals negotiate status and respectability, honour and shame mediate relationships between individuals, families and 'honour groups' or moral communities in which they participate.

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Poverty and Shame

Interactional Impacts on Claimants of Chinese Dibao

Jian Chen and Lichao Yang

The Chinese minimum living standard guarantee (dibao), which has been in place since the 1990s, is one of the most important social assistance programs run by the Chinese government. There is extensive literature on dibao, a majority of which deals with how it is allocated in rural communities and its effectiveness in alleviating rural poverty. Receiving dibao is often considered a sign of poverty. Scholars have long discussed the shame experienced by people in poverty. However, very few empirical studies have paid attention to the interplay between shame and dibao. This study draws on one month of qualitative fieldwork, focused on dibao implementation in both urban and rural China. It aims to understand how dibao and shame are connected in relation to three elements of policy provision: discretion, rights, and negotiation.

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Antipoverty Measures

The Potential for Shaming and Dignity Building through Delivery Interactions

Erika Gubrium and Sony Pellissery

The special issue focuses on the impact of antipoverty measures—accounting for social and structural dimensions in the poverty experience and moving beyond an income-only focus—in five country cases: China, India, Norway, Uganda, and the United States. Particularly, we focus on the implications of shame in the delivery of antipoverty measures, as an individual and social phenomenon that relates to feelings of self-inadequacy, as well to a lack of dignity and recognition. We analyze delivery interactions through an analytic framework of rights, discretion and negotiation, as this enables us to parse out how policy delivery interactions presumed or enabled individual choice, ability, control, and voice. We suggest social citizenship can structure the relationships between welfare recipients and administrators. As a concept, it expands the objects of social rights beyond the materiality of human life (e.g., housing, pensions) to include intangible processual elements (e.g., dignity) in the construct of rights.

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Jaime Rollins

This essay explores the differences between a practice called body modification and the behaviour known as self-injury (or self-harm, self-inflicted injury, self-mutilation, etc.), in which individuals purposefully harm themselves to get relief from strong emotion or in an attempt to gain control over themselves or their emotions. Although some consider both self-injury and body modification to be synonymous, I argue that self-injury is more like an addiction to many sufferers, making it like a mental illness or a disease. I use a narrative interview with a friend called 'Eva' to illustrate these differences from a self-harmer's point of view, and hope to show that while body modifiers are often proud of their transformations and view the process as a rite, self-harmers, in contrast, are often secretive and ashamed of their behaviour or addiction.

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Building Dignity?

Tracing Rights, Discretion, and Negotiation within a Norwegian Labor Activation Program

Erika Gubrium, Leah Johnstone and Ivar Lødemel

Within a Norwegian labor activation program for social assistance, we explore how the presence of a work-oriented ethos shapes and changes the balance of rights, discretion, and negotiation available to and marking the interactions between service providers and program participants. We trace connections between changed delivery interactions and heightened shame or enhanced dignity for participants. Two themes emerge, the first related to an imagined institutional trajectory of progress attached to labor activation in which participants were offered “more” and the second to whether participants and caseworkers had a meaningful voice in co-negotiating the terms of activation. Unrealistic optimism and an institutional focus placed on individual participants’ new responsibilities fueled a longer-term negative impact. Descriptions of enhanced rights, new possibilities for negotiation, and reported feelings of shame and frustration depended both on the participant’s distance to the labor market and on the point at which respondents were interviewed.

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Sisphyean Struggles

Encounters and Interactions within Two US Public Housing Programs

Erika Gubrium, Sabina Dhakal, Laura Sylvester and Aline Gubrium

We operationalize the concepts of rights, discretion, and negotiation in service provision at two public housing sites, exploring their connections to the generation of shame or dignity building for residents. Using data from in-depth interviews with housing residents and caseworkers, we found that resident rights were limited by a decentralized system that actively prevented them from taking control of their lives. Residents frequently experienced caseworker discretion as personally intrusive, yet there was some, if limited, space for negotiation between caseworkers offering personalized care and residents evaluated as worthy of such focus. These interactions offered the potential for enhanced recognition and dignity.

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In the Shadow of the Gallows

Symptoms, Sensations, Feelings

Adriano Prosperi

Through the fascinating late sixteenth-century legal battle over the inheritance of the Florentine nobleman Giovambattista di Bindaccio Ricasoli Baroni, in which the young Galileo Galilei appeared as a key witness, this article reflects on two key categories of emotion of the era: melancholy and terror (specifically, fear of death). In analyzing these emotions, which hounded the unfortunate Ricasoli throughout his life, the article shows that, far from being the private sentiments of a single pathological individual, these emotions reflected the mood of people living in an era when the shadow of the oppression of arbitrary power in this world and of the possibility of eternal suffering in the next were particularly salient. Moreover, seemingly perennial emotions like sadness or the fear of death or shame, far from being unchanging, can take different and unpredictable configurations in a precise historical context, based on impulses and conflicts related to the power relations and the mental patrimony of that society.

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Indignity in Cash Transfers

The Senior Citizen’s Grant in Uganda

Grace Bantebya Kyomuhendo

Although development policy approaches in Uganda and elsewhere have changed over time, many of them share a failure to consider and respond to the potential for shaming, given the persistent presence of social norms and practices shaped by poverty. Research evidence of the lived experiences and practices of the providers and beneficiaries of the Senior Citizens’ Grant (SCG) antipoverty measure had spaces and a process of dignity building and shaming. The overriding policy implication that antipoverty policymakers need to be aware of is that antipoverty policies that create spaces for poverty shaming are counterproductive and less than optimally effective in achieving antipoverty objectives than policies that impart a sense of dignity in the participants. The latter kind of policies has a greater capacity to deliver on antipoverty objectives by recognizing the participants’ rights and promoting their human dignity, equitable participation, social inclusion, political voice, and individual or collective agency.

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The Gift of Shame

The Invention of Postcolonial Society

Karen Sykes

Twenty-five years ago, Roy Wagner in his book, The Invention of Culture asked his reader to comprehend the invention of society as an ongoing effort, especially an effort made by members aware of the changes that can be wrought by their actions. In doing so, he posed the problem of what kind of society people thought they were making, contrasting the social contract of the Euro-American political thought with the processual sociality imagined by Melanesians (1975, 1974). The theoretical insights of Wagner can be brought to bear on the period of independence in Papua New Guinea when Melanesians were making a new sociality. I will discuss the dialectics of Wagner’s approach, as they are played out at the time of the publication of his book; that is, in the early years of the creation of the new nation of Papua New Guinea.