Evelin G. Lindner: From Humiliation, Vengeance, and Genocide to Reconciliation: Experiences from Rwanda

Download media file

Evelin Lindner earned her doctorate from the Department of Psychology at the University in Oslo in 2001, on the topic of The Psychology of Humiliation: Somalia, Rwanda / Burundi, and Hitler's Germany. In this talk, she reports on the dramatic experiences she went through when she was back in Rwanda to conduct the 25th Annual Dignity Conference of the Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies network in Kigali in June 2015. Since 2003, Rwanda has enacted a number of laws prohibiting “genocide ideology”, “genocide minimisation” and “negationism.” The National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) was founded in 2007. Charges of terrorism and threats to national security have been brought against those indicted. In March 2015, it seemed that the Dignity Conference could not happen. The reason was that Lindner's doctoral dissertation, seemingly, was misinterpreted as condoning genocide as an understandable and thus legitimate outcome of humiliation. Clearly, the actual message of Lindner's dissertation – indeed, of her entire work – is the stark opposite: since humiliation may lead to violence, in order to avoid this outcome, humiliation must be better understood, and in this context, understanding is NOT to be confounded with condoning. There is no automatism in humiliation necessarily leading to violence, and, furthermore, rather than healing humiliation, cycles of violence only humiliate all involved, including its perpetrators.

Lindner reports from her personal experience of the psychological dynamics of the cross-pressure that arises between traditional strategies of securing power by domination and efforts to manifest the ideal that "every human being is born equal in dignity and rights." The commons dilemma and the security dilemma are powerful frames for the transition to this ideal, and success or failure is not a question of abstract game theory. Compelling psychological dynamics are involved that every person experiences - or every community or nation, for that matter - when facing adversity. And this dynamic is not restricted to far-flung places like Rwanda. In an atmosphere of fear, traditional power-over strategies that seemed long forgotten tend to re-surface even in the most peace-minded social contexts.

Published July 8, 2016 10:39 AM - Last modified Dec. 22, 2016 2:02 PM