Dehumanization matters because it is implicated in the worst atrocities that humans perpetrate on one another. But despite its importance, dehumanization is poorly understood. There is not even a consensus among researchers about what dehumanization is, much less how it works. Some of them even deny its existence, or minimize its significance.
I’m a professor of philosophy who has been studying dehumanization for almost twenty years. I have written three books on this subject. The first, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others (St. Martin’s Press, 2011), received the Anisfield-Wolf award for non-fiction. It was followed by On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It (Oxford University Press, 2020), and Making Monsters: The Uncanny Power of Dehumanization (Harvard University Press, 2021). My work is cited by psychologists, historians, legal scholars, political scientists,and philosophers,as well as in the mass media.
The purpose of this newsletter is to share with you some of what I have learned about what dehumanization is, how it works, why it occurs, and what to do about it.
When people think of dehumanization, they are likely to call past events to mind. They think of Auschwitz. They think of Rwanda. They think of slavery. But dehumanization is happening now, and will in all likelihood continue in the foreseeable future. That’s is why understanding it should be high on our list of priorities.
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