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SHAME / Vol. 70, No. 4 (Winter 2003)

January 2, 2004

Arien Mack, Editor

 

Table of Contents

 

Arien Mack

Editor's Introduction

The principle motivation for this special issue of Social Research, is that we live in a culture that may be becoming shamefully shameless -in which the shame may be dying, if not already dead. Is this true? If true, how did it happen, and why? What does it mean to be shameless, and what are the consequences? Is this state of affairs likely to change?

 

Agnes Heller
Five Approaches to the Phenomenon of Shame

The article discusses the phenomenon of shame from five different perspectives. These include the anthropological perspective, the sociological perspective, the ethical perspective, the psychological perspective, and the historical perspective. In anthropological approach, the author talks about the meaning of elementary shame, while on sociological approaches, she focuses on the social triggers of shame. In the ethical approach, the author differentiated shame from culture while on the psychological approach she talked about the concept of positive shame. Lastly, she mentioned the concept of pure shame culture and pure conscience culture in the historical approach.

 

David Konstan
Shame in Ancient Greece

The article discusses the meaning of shame in the Greek context. The meaning of Greek shame had a wider extension to include some of the modern nation of guilt. There are two Greek words that are the equivalent of the word "shame" in English, it is the words "aidôs" and "aishkun ê" For the ancient Greeks, shame was a vigorous emotional category. Writers in classical Greece conceive shame as a fundamental ethical behavior unlike in the American contemporary society where it is treated more as a morally deficient emotion.

 

John Hollander
Honor Dishonorable: Shameful Shame

The article discusses the meaning and usage of the word "shame." The author primarily aims to explore the possible interactions between two different concepts of shame which are both deployed in the common English word of Germanic origin but are often distinguished in other languages. He tackles important literary fiction concerning the origins of shame and analyzes the meaning of the term based on its meaning on the Oxford English Dictionary. Moreover, he also reviews some analogous complexities between the word "shame" and its somewhat oblique antithesis, commonly known as "honor."

 

David Cohen
The American National Conversation about (Everything but) Shame

The article discusses the meaning of shame in the American context. According to the author, it would be impossible to understand the United State's foreign policy, and most issues that dominate its political and cultural landscape without reference to shame. Most often, shame figures in the background of most American conversation about morality. In line with that, the author also explains the two types of shame: the primal shame and the moral shame. Primal shame is a term used to connote an emotion coming from failings of bravery and courage wile moral shame is derived from one's transgressions.

 

Richard A. Shweder
Toward a Deep Cultural Psychology of Shame

The article describes the deep cultural psychology of shame. As an abstract idea shame may refer to the "deeply felt and highly motivating experience of the fear of being judged defective." The concept of shame, if considered as an abstract idea, sets a mandatory limit on all conceivable, more substantive, full-bodied, or culture-specific definitions of shame. Moreover, the author concludes that the meaning of the emotion "shame" is the same whether it is experienced by different people from different places.

 

David Shapiro
The Tortured, Not the Torturers Are Ashamed

It has been said that shame or the threat of shame acts to sanction and inhibit uncivil behavior, that "normal shame is necessary for the regulation of all human interaction" (Schiff, 1987: 222). If that is indeed its aim, it has, in many circumstances at least, badly missed the target. 

 

James Gilligan
Shame, Guilt, and Violence

The article discusses the psychological relation among shame, guilt and violence. According to the author, people resort to violence when they feel that they can wipe out shame by shaming those who made them feel ashamed. One of the most effective and easy way of shaming others is through violence and one of the most powerful way to provoke others to commit violence is by shaming them. Moreover, pain and punishment has the capability to raise the feelings of shame and decrease the feelings of guilt which makes it the basic psychological reason why punishment is the most powerful stimulant or cause of violence.

 

Michael Lewis
The Role of the Self in Shame

The article discusses how perception of self affects a person's understanding of shame. The notion of self and its development plays a significant role in understanding shame. Shame involves specific behavior related to one's phenomenological experiences. These behaviors are elicited from two classes of events which includes those related to specific physical events and those related to thoughts abut the self. Shame does not exist at birth but develops over age. Its emergence requires more than consciousness, one should have standards, rule and goals that when accompanied by consciousness gives rise to a new set of self-conscious evaluative emotions such as shame.

 

Paul Gilbert
Evolution, Social Roles and the Differences in Shame and Guilt

This article explores shame from an evolutionary-psychosocial perspective and contrasts it with guilt. It is suggested that shame and guilt have very different evolutionary roots, use different self-other evaluative emotions and competencies, are socialized in different ways and societies differ in their organization of social interactiosnt hrough a shame-pride or a guilt (caring for others) based focus. While shame may aid social conformity, the distinction between shame and guilt helps to clarify the potentially unhelpfulness of shame as a moral socializing process.

 

Alexander Welsh
A King Lear of the Debtors' Prison: Dickens and Shakespeare on Mortal Shame

The article traces the experience of shame in William Shakespeare's play "King Lear" using Charles Dickens' novel "Little Dorrit." The author focuses on the shame of old age and the helplessness in the face of dependency. The main issue would be to suffer shame rather than guilt. The lesson that readers will learn by identifying in the characters of King Lear and William Dorrit is that the shame of being old has become something like the shame of being human. According to the author, both "King Lear" and "Little Dorrit" deserve great merit for taking shame seriously and insisting that it can never be placed in perspective and overcome.

 

Rochelle Gurstein
The Waning of Shame in Modern Life: Kundera's Novels as a Case Study

The article examines the characters on Milan Kundera's novels which includes "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting," and "The Farewell Party." The most modest characters in Kundera's novels are painfully aware of the essential doubleness and vulnerability of bodily experiences while the vulgarian and the liberationists treats their own and other's bodies in the most casual and indiscriminate manner. According to the author, Kundera's vision of the waning of the shame in modern world suggests that it is time for the readers to reconsider it.

 

Okello Oculi
A Narrative on "Shame"

Africa's leading literary thinkers have shown much interest in the phenomenon of "shame." They have used it as a weapon for denouncing incidences of cultural surrender to Christianity, military dictatorship, and the ineptitude and corruption of post-colonial leadership in Africa (Shutte 1993: 56). African leaders on their part have sought to modernize and inject into multilateral diplomacy the notion of indirect responsibility and collective shame over spilling of blood across clan borders, for carrying demands for paying back reparations for crimes against African humanity, notably: slavery, colonialism, and racial humiliation. The problem of shame, blood-debt repayment and technological disparity in tools of warfare and more limited relations of conflict, contains within it potential for escalation and long-term threat to freedom to assume initiative and development as a full human being and as a nation-state. Where there are contestations over the supremacyof indigenous and alien values, shame allows for little mutually enriching dialogue, with a high propensity for violent protest from either side.

 

Yirmiyahu Yovel
The Birth of the Picaro from the Death of Shame

The article examines the presence of the Converso experience in Renaissance Spanish literature by following a close reading and analysis of major representative texts such as "Lazarillo de Tormes" and "Guzmán de Alfarache," two founding novels of the picaresque genre. The author focuses on the one episode of Guzmán which primarily deals with the treatment of shame. According to the author, shame is important because of its negative relation to "honra," meaning social honor or prestige.

 

Martha Hollander
Losses of Face: Rembrandt, Masaccio, and the Drama of Shame

The article analyzes the visual narratives about shame which proliferated from the late medieval period through the eighteenth century. The author focuses on the paintings of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and Masaccio which illustrates shame as a subject. These famous paintings include "The Repentant Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver," "Susanna and the Elders," both from Rembrandt and "Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden," from Masaccio. The painting, Repentant Judas portrays a man's shame as he abashes himself before a group of spectators while the painting Susanna, offers a naked ashamed woman who was observed by an almost invisible pair of men. 

 

Eiko Ikegami
Shame and the Samurai: Institutions, Trustworthiness and Autonomy in the Elite Honor Culture

The article focuses on the meaning of "shame" on the premodern Japanese samurai culture. "Haji" or shame played a significant role in constructing the identity of the Japanese samurai, who collectively defined themselves as those who know shame and would risk their lives to defend their honor. A young samurai named Yoshida Shōin, states that haji is the most important word in a Samurai's vocabulary and nothing is more shameful than not understanding it. According to the author, the samurai's concept of shame and honor helped them construct a collective identity that differentiated them from the rest of the Japanese society.

 

 

 

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