Bielefeld (2018)

Honor-Shame Dynamics
in Western History

Date: 14 – 16 June 2018

ZIF / Centre for Interdisciplinary Research, Bielefeld, Germany

Convenors: Richard Landes (Ramat Gan, ISR), Jörg Wettlaufer (Göttingen, GER)

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This workshop brings together a wide range of specialists from varyious disciplines, periods of history, and geographical areas, in order to discuss a common theme that has, for a variety of reasons, been neglected by most scholars, i.e., the dynamics surrounding honor and shame in Western culture. In fact, much of the work that does address these issues tends to focus on one or the other element in the dyad. Given how fundamental these dynamics are for socialisation (indeed to human evolution and the limbic system), how pervasive these dynamics are in every culture and every time period, and how in the West, in particular, an adversary set of dynamics emerged (change to what we call secondary honor codes), it seems rewarding to try and think systematically and conceptually about these issues. The purpose of the three-day workshop is to discuss terminology, refine definitions, identify evidence, prepare a digital archive for further collaborative research on the topic and develop common issues. Invited and confirmed participants are amongst others Daniel Lord Smail (Harvard), Ute Frevert (Berlin), David Nash (Oxford), Kenneth S. Greenberg (Boston) and Bénédicte Sère (Paris).

It is possible to host a limited number of guests for the duration of the workshop and provide free housing and meals. If you are interested to participate activly or ask a question concerning scientific content and contributions of the workshop please contact Jörg Wettlaufer (+49 551 39 20477 oder We like to encourage especially jounger scholars (PhD candidates or postdocs) to apply for participation with a short letter of intent and a list of relevant publications until the end of March.


Dynamiken von Ehre und Schande in der westlichen Geschichte

Dieser Workshop bringt eine breite Palette von Spezialisten aus unterschiedlichen Disziplinen, Epochen und geografischen Gebieten zusammen, um ein gemeinsames Thema zu diskutieren, das bislang aus einer Vielzahl von Gründen vernachlässigt wurde: die Dynamik von Ehre und Schande in der westlichen Kultur. Viele Studien, die diese Fragen behandeln, neigen dazu, sich auf das eine oder andere dieser Elemente zu konzentrieren. Angesichts dessen, wie wichtig diese Dynamik für die Sozialisation ist (auch für die menschliche Evolution und das limbische System), wie diese Dynamik in jeder Kultur und in jeder Zeitperiode verbreitet ist und wie sich im Westen insbesondere eine Gegenbewegung zu dieser Dynamik entwickelt hat (die Veränderung zu etwas, was wir als sekundäre Ehrencodes bezeichnen), erscheint es uns lohnend, systematisch und konzeptionell über diese Fragen nachzudenken und zu diskutieren. Der dreitägige Workshop soll die relevante Terminologie diskutieren, Definitionen prüfen, Material identifizieren, ein digitales Archiv für eine zukünftige gemeinsame Forschung diesem Thema vorbereiten und eine Liste von aussichtsreichen Einzelthemen erarbeiten. Zu den eingeladenen und zugesagten TeilnehmerInnen gehören unter anderem Daniel Lord Smail (Harvard), Ute Frevert (Berlin), David Nash (Oxford), Kenneth S. Greenberg (Boston) und Bénédicte Sère (Paris).

Es ist für eine begrentze Anzahl von zusätzlichen, aktiven Teilnehmern möglich, Unterkunft und Verpflegung für die Dauer des Workshops am ZIF in Bielelfeld zur Verfügung zu stellen. Reisekosten können nicht übernommen werden. Wenn Sie daran Interesse haben oder Fragen zum Thema des workshops haben, richten Sie diese bitte an Jörg Wettlaufer (+49 551 39 20477 oder Fragen zur Organisation vor Ort können Sie an das Tagungsbüro des ZIF, Frau Marina Hoffmann (+49 521 106-2768 oder stellen. Wir möchten insbesondere jüngere DoktorandInnen und PostdoktorandInnen ermuntern, sich ggf. für eine Teilnahme mit einer kurzen Beschreibung des Forschungsinteresses und evtl. einer Liste der relevanten Veröffentlichungen bis Ende März bei uns zu melden.

Program  (as of May 30, 2018)

Thursday, June 14th 2018

09h00 Welcome
Introduction and short presentation of the participants
09h30 Panel I: Definitions and foundations: shame, honor, pride, integrity?
This includes discussion of definitions to be used in the course of the seminars, along with caveats about their use. Starting with a careful consideration of what we mean by “honor” and “shame” and by their proffered opposites, “integrity” and “guilt.” In a second time, we consider the terms listed in the proposal as tools for situating the discussion in historical time. All participants should provide a short statement in response to the suggested terms and concepts and are invited to suggest alternative concepts that can be discussed in the following panels.
Suggested reading
  • Primary Honour-Code: tribal warrior, “heroic.” One is not a “man” until he has killed another man. Honour here primarily zero-sum, based on shame/ disgrace/ defeat of rival. A blackened face must be washed in blood (duel, feud). Men gain, lose, regain honor; women have, must preserve honor which reflects on their men’s honor.
  • Secondary Honour-Code: a system of public values according to which honour and shame are awarded that challenges major elements and practices of the primary code: previously honourable behaviour – in the case of the West, slaveholding, duelling, bullying, racism – become considered shameful.
  • Honour Group: those whose opinions most count in granting and withdrawing honor, either because they control public opinion, or they supersede it. (In a schoolyard, the peer group is the honor group; the teacher the arbiter of public opinion.)
  • Prime Divider Society: agro-literate societies, empires, in which public honor is bestowed upon a small dichotomous ruling elite (clerics and warriors), while the labouring classes (the vast majority) are in varying conditions of disgrace. Elites monopolize public honor in the form of legal privilege, control of the technology of communications, weaponry, and travel, and have access to royal court; commoners endure servile status and the disgrace of manual labor (serfdom). Most commoners in such societies live at subsistence (poverty) levels.
  • Triumphalist vs Demotic religiosity: styles of “living one’s religion,” as opposed to formal beliefs to which one adheres. Triumphalist religiosity prizes the primary honor code and seeks visible dominance as proof of “truth”. Demotic offers a counter-culture of (secondary) values: dignity of manual labour,, egalitarian legal status, access to sacred scripture to all including commoners, penitence/introspection, forgiveness, empathy, modesty/humility. In demotic religiosity, visible dominance is either unimportant or explicitly to be avoided.
  • Dignity Culture: (an ideal type of secondary code) honor goes to egalitarian and positive-sum behavior – unlike honor, everyone can have dignity. Fairness (equality before the law) replaces violence in dispute settlement (privilege to those with “honor” before the law). Dignity cultures are experiments in social organization that try to dismantle the prime divider and substitute secondary for primary honour codes, with both intended and unintended consequences.
  • Shame vs Guilt: it will be difficult to do these volumes without settling on a reasonable, fittingly vague, but helpfully oriented definition of the difference between shame and guilt. For the time being, this important discussion remains open.
  • Prime Divider: The overwhelming majority of civilized polities for the last 5000 years, from the ancient empires of the iron age to the early modern period in Europe to today’s conditions in much of the world, are structured along a fundamental fissure — a prime divider — between elites and commoners that structures most of the features of political and social life in basic ways. These societies are based on the political axiom “rule or be ruled” and permit even require the use of violence to defend one’s honor.
  • Demotic: In the sense of popular, but rather than condescending (images the bible of the illiterate), empowering (universal literacy).
  • Hurtado de Mendoza et al. (2010): Emotion terms, category structure, and the problem of translation: The case of shame and verguenza. Cognition and Emotion 24, p. 661-680.
  • Landes (2018): Tribal Honor
  • Burkhart (2018):The Unwieldy Phenomenon of Honour/Shame (Ehre/Schande)
10h45 break
11h15 Panel II: Biological and cultural dimensions of shame and honor
(ca. 150,000 BCE – present): adaptive foundations of cultural traits. Evolutionary role of social emotions, and specifically of honor and shame, in shaping both human physionomy and emotions and their societies. Limbic, mimetic, invidious impulses; oneidophobia (overriding [limbic] fear of public blame/humiliation), socialization/education. Relevance of these foundations for honor/shame dynamics in historical times?
Suggested reading
  • Fessler (2007): From Appeasement to Conformity
  • Jacquet, Hauert, Traulsen, Milinski (2011): Shame and honour drive cooperation
  • Nichols, Ryan (2016):The Natural History of Shame and Its Modification by Confucian Culture
  • Smail, Daniel Lord. On Deep History and the Brain. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008
  • Smail, Daniel. “Psychotropy and the Patterns of Power in Human History.” In Environment, Culture, and the Brain: New Explorations in Neurohistory, 43–48. 6. Munich: Rachel Carson Perspectives, 2012.
  • 12h30 Lunch
    14h00 Panel III: Psychological and anthropological dimensions of honor and shame:
    the establishment of primary honor groups and codes, honor codes in tribal vs. prime-divider societies, gender differentiation in warrior tribes. Furthermore we want to review and discuss theories on honor and shame and their possible application to explain historical concepts of these emotions.
    Suggested reading
    • Fassin, Didier (Hg.) (2012): A Companion to Moral Anthropology: Wiley-Blackwell
    • Burkhart (2018): Paradoxical Communication in the Ballad Hasanaginica
    15h30 break
    16h00 Panel IV: historical and anthropological dimensions of shame: guilt, dignity and religiosity?
    Counter-traditions that reinterpret honor and challenge the primary honor-code: philosophy (Gyges ring non-effect), demotic religiosity (guilt). The moral dilemma: public honor and private guilt vs. public shame and private integrity. In this panel we want to review and discuss theories on shame, guilt and dignity in their secular and religious dimension and identify related historical concepts.
    Suggested reading
    • Katchadourian (2009): Guilt: the bite of conscience, chapter 1: guilt and its neighbours
    • Devereaux, Simon and Paul Griffiths (eds) (2004) Penal Practice and Culture, 1500–1900: Punishing the English. London: Palgrave Macmillan
    • Groebner, Valentin (1995) Losing Face, Saving Face: Noses and Honor in the Late Medieval Town. English trans. Pamela Selwyn. History Workshop Journal 40, 1–15.
    • Braithwaite, John (1989) Crime, Shame and Reintegration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
    • Ingram, Martin (1999) History of Sin or History of Crime? The Regulation of Personal Morality in England 1450–1750, in Heinz Schilling (ed.) Institutionen, Instrumente und Akteure sozialer Kontrolle und Disziplinierung im frühneuzeitlichen Europa. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 87–103.
    • Ingram, Martin (2003) Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 1570–1640. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Lidman, Satu (2018) Ambivalent Fatherhood: On Disobedience and Assaults Against Parental Authority in Munich in the Early Seventeenth Century, in Marianna Muravyeva and Raisa Maria Toivo (eds) World Histories of Crime, Culture and Violence. Parricide and Violence Against Parents throughout History. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 171–190.
    • Lidman, Satu (2013) Violence or Justice? Gender-Specific Structures and Strategies in Early Modern Europe, in Marianna Muravyeva and Raisa Maria Tovio (ed.) Gender in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe. London/New York: Routledge, 238–260.
    • Matikainen, Olli and Satu Lidman (eds) (2014) Morality, Crime and Social Control in Europe 1500–1900. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society.
    • Österberg, Eva and Dag Lindström (1988) Crime and Social Control in Medieval and Early Modern Swedish Towns. Uppsala: University of Uppsala.
    • Schwerhoff, Gerd (2004) Social Control of Violence, Violence as Social Control: The Case of Early Modern Germany, in Herman Roodenburg and Pieter Spierenburg (eds) Social Control in Europe 1500–1800, vol I. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 220–246.
    • Strasser, Ulrike (2004) State of Virginity. Gender, Religion and Politics in an Early Modern Catholic State. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
    17h30 General discussion and planning for the next day


    Friday, June 15th 2018

    09h00 Panel V: Patterns in honor-shame dynamics: Ancient Mediterranean and religion:
    What do we know about honor and shame dynamics in Ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel and Greece? What was the importance of those concepts for the societies and how important was religion and monotheism in shaping the dynamical relationship between them? We want to look at honor in the Roman Empire and will try to better understand the gendered concepts of honor and shame in the Mediterranean.
    Suggested reading
    • Herzfeld, M. (1980): Honour and shame: problems in the comparative analysis of moral systems, Man (N.S.), 15, S. 339-351.
    • Landes (2018): Judah and Tamar and the History of Honor.
    • Nojima, Kunio (2011): Ehre und Schande in Kulturanthropologie und biblischer Theologie
    10h45 break
    11h15 Panel VI: Patterns in honor-shame dynamics: Early and High Medieval Europe
    This panel is devoted to a period where concepts of honor and shame played a crucial role in structuring the society and we can observe overlapping and even opposing honor-codes: prayers vs warriors (crusades), honor clashes (Gregory VII/Henry IV), literacy, demotic textual (apostolic) communities, commoner-elite discourses (when Adam delved and Eve span… vs. laborers disgraced), noble and urban solidarities and honors, rites of violence, public penance and shaming.
    Suggested reading
    • Owen, Morfydd E. (1980): Shame and reparation: womans place in the kin, in: The Welsh Law of Women. Studies presented to Prof. Daniel A Binchy on his eightieth Birthday 3. June 1980, ed. by Dafydd Jenkins and Morfydd E. Owen, Cardiff, p. 40-68, here 49: “The three shames of a girl are: One is that her father tells her, I have given you  to a husband, the second is, when she first goes to bed to her husband, the third is when she first rises from the bed to the midst of people. For the giving, her amobr is paid. For her virginity her cowyll; for her shame her egweddi.”
  • Boquet, Damien (2008): Rives nord-méditerranéennes, Histoire de la vergogne, Vol. 31.
  • Miller (1993): Humiliation: and other essays on honor, social discomfort and violence (ch. 3, p. 93-130)
  • 12h30 Lunch
    14h00 Panel VII: Patterns in honor-shame dynamics: Late Medieval and Renaissance Europe
    In the later middle ages honor and shame continued to play a crucial role in structuring the society and there is good reason to believe that honor and shame have become the primary cornerstones of social life around 1500. Literacy and individualism, Shakespeare’s plays and art reflects the extraordinary importance of honor and shame in this period
    Suggested reading
    • Sère\Wettlaufer (2013): Shame between punishment and penance (Introduction)
  • Burkhart, Dagmar (2018): Literacy and Honor-Shame Dynamics in the Renaissance
  • 15h30 break
    16h00 Panel VIII: Patterns in honor-shame dynamics: Early Modern and Enlightenment
    Reason as challenge to honor, the triumph of civic honor, dueling laws, punishments, (Montesquieu), individual autonomy (Kant), economic relations and the abatement of aristocratic honor, free speech and inquiry, public self-criticism, city of letters, universities, capitalism, dismantling the prime divider, revolution as a secondary honor code.
    Suggested reading
    • Zeilinger, Florian (2016): Cases concerning the restoration of honor in supplications filed by subjects at the Aulic Council under the reign of Emperor Rudolf II (Summary, 4 Pages)
      diploma thesis, Graz, Austria.
    17h30 General discussion.
    19h00 Dinner
    20h30 informal get together


    Saturday, June 16th 2018

    09h00 Panel IX: Writing a cultural history of Honor and Shame: Modernity
    In this panel we want to discuss possible pathways towards a cultural history of honor and shame in Modernity. Topic cover Slavery in the American South, Communism, journalism and honor (Dreyfus duels), vestiges of primary honor-shame (WWI). 
    Suggested reading
    • Greenberg (1990): The Nose, the Lie, and the Duel in Antebellum South.
    • Kilday/Nash (2017): Shame and Modernity in Britain 1890 to the Present.
    10h45 break
    11h15 Patterns in honor-shame dynamics: Western Culture and Post-Modernity
    From shame-guilt dichotomy as key to triumphant democratic capitalism (post WWII) to cultural relativity and cognitive egocentrism, immigration, gender and honor-shame, post-modernism and radical anti-shame, clash of primary and secondary honor codes, return of honor-shame sensibilities (free speech and safe spaces).
    Suggested reading
    • Bowman, James (2006): Honor. A history
    • Lethen, Helmut (1994): Verhaltenslehre der Kälte, Stuttgart: Suhrkamp.
    • Lethen, Helmut (2002): Cool Conduct: The Culture of Distance in Weimar Germany, University of California Press.
    12h30 Lunch
    14h00 Panel XI: Writing a cultural history of Honor and Shame: Literature and Gender
    How can approaches from psychology, sociology, anthropology, literature, gender studies and other fields integrate and support a collective attempt of a cultural history of honor and shame?
    Suggested reading
    • Butler, Sara M. (2007): The Language of Abuse. Marital Violence in Later Medieval England. Leiden: Brill.
    • Heijden, Manon van der (2004): Punishment versus Reconciliation. Marriage Control in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Holland, in Herman Roodenburg and Pieter Spierenburg (eds) Social Control in Europe 1500–1800, vol I. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 55-77.
    • Douglas, Raymond M. (2016): On Being Raped. Boston: Beacon Press 2016.
    • Ehrlich, Susan (2001): Representing Rape: Language and Sexual Consent. London/New York: Routledge.
    • Fox, Vivian C. (2002): Historical Perspectives on Violence against Women. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 4(1), 15-34.
    • Freedman, Estelle B. (2013) Redefining Rape. Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
      Hong, Tuuli (2014): Discourses on Honour-Related Violence in Finnish Policy Documents. Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 1-16. doi:10.1080/08038740.2014.964648.
    • Husso, Marita, Tuija Virkki, Marianne Notko, Helena Hirvonen and Jari Eilola (eds) (2017) Interpersonal Violence. Differences and Connections. New York: Routledge.
    • Liliequist, Jonas (2011): Changing Discourses of Marital Violence in Sweden from the Age of Reformation to the Late Nineteenth Century. Gender and History 1, 1-25.
    • Muravyeva, Marianna (2013): “A King in his own Household”: Domestic Discipline and Family Violence in Early Modern Europe Reconsidered, in: Marianna Muravyeva (ed.) The History of the Family vol 18: 3. London/New York: Routledge, 227-237.
    • Wikan, Unni (2008): In Honor of Fadime. Murder and Shame. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


    15h30 break
    16h00 Panel XII: Final discussion and planning for future collaboration
    Critical assessment on what we achieved. On what did we agree and disagree? Is it possible to write a deep history of honour and shame? Can we confine the topic to Western history? Where do we want to go from here? What would be the best way to carry out the project of a cultural history of honor and shame? What is the target group? Can we reach a “memorandum of understanding” of honor and shame in cultural history? Planning for the digital archive of honor and shame in cultural history. Collecting names and institutions that could contribute. Labelling volumes and sketching a table of contents. Size and scope, style and embedding.
    Suggested reading
    17h30 End of workshop

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