Humiliation : understanding its nature, experience and consequences

by Yashpal Ashokrao Jogdand

Institution: University of St. Andrews
Year: 2015
Keywords: Humiliation ; Dalits in India ; Emotion ; Collective mobilisation ; Evaluation ; Victimisation ; Psychology of oppressed groups ; Dignity and self-respect ; Humiliation ; Dalits – India – Psychological testing ; Dalits – India ; Oppression (Psychology)
Record ID: 1399220
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10023/6306


This thesis examined the nature, experience and consequences of humiliation among Dalits (ex-Untouchables) in India (and also among UK students for comparative purposes). Social psychological research looks at humiliation as automatic, extreme and intense emotion which often leads to extreme and irrational behaviors (Lindner, 2002; Otten & Jonas, 2014; Elison & Harter, 2007). The research in this thesis contested this view and underlined the need to look at humiliation as 1) inherently relational or dynamic in nature, 2) a distinguishably group level phenomenon and 3) a mobilised phenomenon. Study 1 analysed the experiences of humiliation among Dalits and conceptualised humiliation as a complex social encounter in which one party attempts to diminish identity of another party. Study 1 also identified important dimensions of humiliating encounters that were examined in subsequent studies. Studies 2 - 3 manipulated perspective (victim or witness) and target of devaluation (personal identity or social identity) in a humiliating encounter and showed that the nature of humiliation and how it is experienced depends upon the way in which identities are defined in a humiliating encounter. Both UK students (Study 2) and Dalit participants (Study 3) confirmed the collective experience of humiliation i.e. one can feel humiliated simply by witnessing humiliation of another group member. Studies 4 - 7 manipulated victim’s response (resistance vs. compliance) during a humiliating encounter. These studies showed that humiliation is an encounter within power relations and victims of humiliation possess choice and agency to change the outcome of humiliating encounters. Study 8 analysed the humiliation rhetoric in the speeches of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the most important of Dalits leaders, and showed that the way in which humiliating encounter is resolved depends upon the mobilisation processes which can even change the nature of identities and, therefore, the nature of experience of the encounter.