Skip to main content

ToPHSS Workshop on dehumanization

The CEU Campus
Tuesday, January 31, 2017, 1:30 pm – 5:10 pm


1:30-1:50 Introduction by Maria Kronfeldner
1:50-2:30 Johannes Steizinger: "Ideological and Psychological Dehumanization: The Case of National Socialism"
2:30-3:10 Helena Ivanov: "Dehumanization in Genocide"

Coffee Break

3:30-4:10 Perica Jovchevski: "Alienation as Subtle Dehumanization."
4:10-5:10 General discussion

Coffee Break

5:30-7:00 Colloquium Lecture – Thomas Brudholm


Johannes Steizinger (Vienna)
"Ideological and Psychological Dehumanization: The Case of National Socialism"

Dehumanization was at the core of Nazi ideology. National Socialism regarded itself as a political revolution that broke with the humanist tradition and realized a new concept of humanity. This attempt to redefine what it means to be human was accompanied by a radical animalistic dehumanization of certain groups of people. The first part of my talk examines this extreme form of dehumanization and analyses its foundation in a specific political anthropology. The second part raises the question what the significance of dehumanization for Nazi ideology can tell us about the psychology of Nazi perpetrators. Already in 1964, Alex Bein claimed that the image of the “Jewish parasite” belongs to the psychological roots of Shoah. Such views are controversial today. Johannes Lang, for instance, questions the involvement of dehumanization in the reality of Nazi mass murder. I will take up this issue from a methodical point of view and discuss what an account of Nazi ideology can contribute to the knowledge about the psychology of the Shoah.

Helena Ivanov (Oxford)
"Dehumanization in Genocide"

The victims of genocide are not perceived as human. The Jews were regarded as parasites, the Rwandan Tutsis as cockroaches, the Bosnian Muslims as balije (those deemed unable to behave, barbarians), the Armenians as dogs, and the Kurds as cattle. They are stripped of their humanity and individuality - relegated to the category of ‘subhuman’. Because it threatens the idea of integrated multicultural societies (by portraying ‘the other’ as less than human) and the security of human rights (by denying the human status to certain groups within the society), dehumanization stands in opposition with what political theorists perceive to be a just society. In my presentation I aim to do two things. First, I plan to clarify the difference between dehumanization that operates in genocide as opposed to dehumanization in non-violent instances, e.g. sexual objectification of women or inferior treatment of African Americans. Second, I plan to further substantiate this claim by looking into dehumanization of Jews in Nazi Germany, and dehumanization of Bosnian Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, with a particular emphasis on those who lived in Srebrenica.

Perica Jovchevski (Budapest)
"Alienation as Subtle Dehumanization."

Alienation has traditionally been understood as a form of dehumanization, both in its socioeconomic dimension, as a loss of control over one’s labor, as well as in its psychological dimension, as a distancing from one’s authentic self. However, contemporary debates on dehumanization set the phenomena of alienation on the margins of the field. In my talk I will sketch an account of alienation as a subtle form of dehumanization, demonstrating that the theoretical marginalization of this phenomena is unjustified. I start by pointing out the origin and the historical developments of the notion of alienation. I then uncover some of the reasons behind the marginalization of alienation in the contemporary debates on dehumanization. I proceed further with an analysis of two manifestations of alienation in today’s labor relations within organizational environments (the alienating consequences of emotional labor of service agents, the oppressive aspects in “dis-identification” between an occupational and an ‘authentic’ self). I conclude that both manifestations prevent the potential for development of traits of human nature such as emotional responsiveness, individuality and interpersonal warmth. In this respect both phenomena contribute to the development of subtle dehumanization.

Thsi workshop is a part of the project "Topics in the Philosophy of the Human and Social Sciences"Topics in the Philosophy of the Humanities and Social Sciences, funded by the Humanities Initiative. The project aims to cross boundaries between disciplines of the humanities and social sciences concerned with 'the human', that is with human beings, humanity, society, culture, history, and more. It focuses on methodological and ontological issues, in particular on those concerned with contested categories of the humanities and social sciences, and of those primarily on the categories of human, individual and person.