The Dignity Initiative
By Dignity Initiative
The Dignity InitiativeJul 13, 2022
Meet the Dignity Initiative
The Dignity Initiative began with the objective of arriving at a definition of dignity.
We began by delving into the existing corpus of work that has been done to conceptualize dignity.
By studying the various approaches from research in philosophy, sociology, law and bioethics, and drawing on the most advanced theories in order to contextualize, nuance and sharpen the definition of dignity, the concept can be used in programming, advocacy, health and policy interventions. Not only do we need a working definition that is developmentally, culturally and gender-appropriate, we also need a concept that can be operationalized, if the concept of dignity is to be used for interventions that are designed to improve the health and wellbeing of people around the world, and to monitor the effects of interventions. So, another major goal of the project was to consider how best to measure dignity and its correlates.
We drew together the voices of experts in multiple fields whose work touches on dignity: activists, the NGO community, global and local healthcare, psychiatrists, epidemiologists, philosophers and beyond.
This short podcast introduces the project and some of the experts we spoke to over the course of a year.
The podcast was voiced by Courtney Kirkby.
Dignity Meets Tom Wein
Director at IDinsight, Kenya
Tom holds a Master’s degree in Communication for Development from Malmö University in Sweden, and an undergraduate degree in War Studies from King’s College, London.
He is a director at IDinsight, based in Nairobi, Kenya. There he leads research in advocacy, and dignity and respect in international development.
Before joining IDinsight, he founded the Dignity Project, a campaign for more respectful international development. With The Dignity Project, he gave evidence to the UK Parliament, and wrote several academic papers; a book on dignity and organisations is forthcoming.
He previously led Raising Voices’ work to prevent violence against children in schools in Uganda. Before that, he worked with the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics, where he built the CREME research agenda on culture, research ethics and methods, and led work on activism, civil society and edutainment.
Dignity's Negin Zamani spoke with Tom Wein
Dignity Meets Pablo Gilabert
Department of Philosophy, Concordia University
A native of Argentina, Pablo Gilabert is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Concordia University (Montréal, Canada). He has been an HLA Hart Fellow at the University of Oxford, a DAAD Fellow at the University of Frankfurt, a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, a Visiting Fellow at the University de Montreal, a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at Princeton University, and a Visiting Scholar at the University of California-Berkeley. His research has been supported by several grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Société et la Culture.
His papers appeared in The Journal of Political Philosophy, Political Theory, The Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophical Studies, Kantian Review, The European Journal of Philosophy, and Human Rights Quarterly, among other journals. He is the author of From Global Poverty to Global Equality. A Philosophical Exploration and Human Dignity and Human Rights (both published by Oxford University Press). Gilabert is currently working on a book on the moral foundations of democratic socialism, entitled Human Dignity and Social Justice.
Dignity Initiative's Courtney Kirkby spoke with Pablo Gilabert
Dignity Meets Jeffrey Snodgrass
Prof. Jeffrey G. Snodgrass is a Professor at the Department of Anthropology, an Adjunct Professor at the School of Public Health at Colorado State University, US. He is also the Director of Ethnographic Research and Teaching Lab in Ecology at the same university, which aims to add anthropological perspective to the current thinking of global mental health.
As a critical psychiatric anthropologist, Prof. Snodgrass investigates the social foundations of mental well-being and the bio-psycho-cultural therapeutics of ritual and play, with a specific interest in understanding how human health and healing processes function naturally and how built environments experiencing dramatic change, high risk, and uncertainty. His publications include Casting Kings: Bards and Indian Modernity (2006), and Indigenous Peoples and the Collaborative Stewardship of Nature: Knowledge Binds and Institutional Conflicts (2011).
Dignity's Michaela Field spoke with Jeffrey Snodgrass
Dignity Meets Remy Debes
Prof. Debes is the Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy at the University of Memphis.
His published research is in the areas of Moral Theory and the History of Ethics, with an emphasis on Human Dignity, Respect, Metaethical Sentimentalism, Moral Psychology (especially Empathy and Emotion), and Enlightenment Ethics (esp. David Hume and Adam Smith). He has also written the few public essays: "Dignity is Delicate" for Aeon; and "Facing up to Oppression: Adam Smith and the Question of Reparations" for Adam Smith Works. You can find most of his work on his Academia webpage here.
He currently sits on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Scottish Philosophy. In 2014 he was the recipient of a 72K grant from the Templeton Foundation for his project, "Understanding as a Form of Respect." In 2015 he was invited to join the President's Research Vision Committee, and later, for 2019-2020, to serve on the university's Research Council. Between 2016-2019 he served on the executive committee for the Provost's Critical Conversations program; and currently is a Committee Co-Lead in the presidential initiative, "Eradicating Racism and Promoting Social Justice." In 2019-20 he served as the Co-Chair of a Presidential Steering Committee to create a new, immersive project-based learning middle school at the University of Memphis. University Middle opened its doors to its inaugural class of sixth graders in the Fall of 2019. In 2019 Prof. Debes was on teaching leave as a Freeburg Fellow at the Marcus Orr Center for the Humanities.
Prof. Debes is presently working on a new book manuscript, tentatively titled, Rethinking Respect. The book explores the ideas of understanding, empathy, respect, and human dignity, and the connections between these subjects and questions of social difference, oppression, power, and justice.
Dignity Meets Jaswant Guzder
Division of Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University
Dr. Guzder is the former Head of Child Psychiatry and Director of Childhood Disorders Day Hospital at the Jewish General Hospital, Founding Clinical Director of Cultural Consultation Services at the Jewish General Hospital, and Associate to Faculty of Social Work at McGill University.
As a psychiatrist, Dr Guzder specializes in child and family psychiatry based on multicultural methodologies. She has international collaborations with institutes in India and Jamaica working with South Asian and Caribbean populations. Her recent project is resilience promotion for high-risk children in a school affiliated intervention from age 8 to 12 at the Dream a World Cultural Resilience Project. Most recently, as an artist, Dr Guzder held artist residencies in Rome and Berlin prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dignity Meets Harvey Max Chochinov
Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov OC, MD, PhD, FRCPC, FRSC is a Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba and a Senior Scientist at CancerCare Manitoba Research Institute. He has led the research team that pioneered Dignity in Care and Dignity Therapy. He has more that 300 career publications, broaching diverse topics such as dignity, depression, quality-of-life, suicide, vulnerability, spirituality, and existential distress towards end-of-life.
He is the co-founder of the Canadian Virtual Hospice and editor of The Handbook of Psychiatry in Palliative Medicine (Oxford University). He has received top research awards from the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Cancer Society, the American Association of Hospice and Palliative Care and the International Psycho-oncology Society; a lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology and the Canadian Medical Association’s FNG Starr Award. He is an Officer in the Order of Canada, and in 2020 was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.
Dignity's Michaela Field spoke with Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov
Dignity Meets Samuel Bickel
Samuel Bickel is a former Senior Advisor of Evaluation and Research at the UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) Region Office for South Asia, which is a leading global organization that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. There, he facilitated UNICEF to determine the impact of programs supporting children across the South Asia region nations of Maldives, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.
Dignity Meets Sir Michael Marmot
Professor Sir Michael Marmot is a Professor of Epidemiology at University College London, UK, the director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, UK, and a past President of the World Medical Association. Being a public health expert, he has conducted many groundbreaking studies on heart diseases and strokes. His primary interest is inequalities in health and their causes, in which he has led research groups for over 40 years. Prof. Marmot also owns extensive publications on inequality issues in health, including Status Syndrome: how your place on the social gradient directly affects your health (2004), and The Health Gap: the challenge of an unequal world (2015). Recently, he published Build Back Fairer: The COVID 19 Marmot Review (2020), aiming to Examine inequalities in COVID-19 mortality, show the effects of societal response to the pandemic on social and economic equality status, and improve current policies.
Dignity Meets Adam Etinson
Adam Etinson is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, where he is also Assistant Director of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs (CEPPA). His articles have appeared in a wide range of academic journals, including The Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Utilitas, The Journal of Moral Philosophy, Political Theory, and Human Rights Quarterly. He has also written for popular audiences in The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, and Dissent.
Dignity Meets Suzanne Killmister
Prof. Suzy Killmister is a Regular Faculty at the Department of Philosophy at Monash University, Australia. Her area of specialization is social and political philosophy, specifically studies of gender, race, and sexuality. She is also interested in normative ethics, meta-ethics, and philosophy of law. In her recent projects, she investigates the concept of dignity and the relationship between dignity and minority rights. Prof. Killmister’s work has appeared in a variety of prestigious scholarly journals and collected volumes, including Philosophical Studies and Nous. In 2020 she penned the book, Contours of Dignity.