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Across cultures and historical eras, shame has been used in the service of advancing ideologies, beliefs and customs. We may like to think we have progressed beyond the days of sentencing wrongdoers to be placed in stocks in the public square for ritualised humiliation at the hands of the public. Nevertheless there are those who have rediscovered the ‘use’ of shame in modern societies. Retributive punishment is being revisited, whilst online shaming, slut-shaming, fat-shaming are but a few examples of how the use of shame to compel, or discourage, particular behaviour continues to thrive in contemporary society. For shame to be effective, it is necessary for individuals to fear public scrutiny and negative judgement. There must also be sufficient consensus around the beliefs and practices that are deemed ‘good’ and those that are deemed to be ‘bad’ to provide a framework in which shame operates as a regulatory mechanism.

The proliferation of information technology and social media has democratised and decentralised the way humans communicate and learn about the world around them. On one hand, this has afforded another platform for shame to be used against individuals and groups. On the other hand, this has facilitated the undermining – or destabilisation – of facts, truths, norms and customs that have traditionally informed the uses of shame. This raises questions about how shame can function in a world where the adherence of individuals to their own personal truths may immunise them against feelings of humiliation arising from the judgement of others. While refusal to be shamed can have positive outcomes, particularly in relation to rejecting stigma around body size, sexual orientation, or disability, has this come at the cost of being able to call out individuals and actions that promote racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, injustice and other social ills?

This inclusive interdisciplinary project provides a forum for explorations of the meaning, use and abuse of shame.


Activities

Conference
1st Global Conference
The Many Faces of Shame
Friday 6th May 2022 – Saturday 7th May 2022
Prague, Czech Republic

Submissions are now open.

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