CFP: MANCEPT workshop: The New Dignity

Submission deadline: May 31, 2024

Conference date(s):
September 4, 2024 - September 6, 2024

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

Department of Politics, University of Manchester, MANCEPT
Manchester, United Kingdom

Topic areas


In response to widespread skepticism about the meaning and theoretical utility of traditional notions of human dignity (voiced, for example, by Ruth Macklin, Samuel Moyn, Stephen Pinker, Michael Rosen, Andrea Sangiovanni, Peter Singer, among many others) a new wave of work seeking to rethink concepts of dignity and their political relevance has sprung up. Recent events, especially the conflict in Gaza, and South Africa’s pending ICJ case charging Israel with genocide, add new urgency to this revitalized debate about human dignity. Leading figures in that debate include Charles Beitz, Colin Bird, Nick Bostrom, Remy Debes, Robin Dillon, Adam Etinson, George Kateb, Suzy Killmister, John Tasioulas, Jeremy Waldron, and Ariel Zylberman. Although all see enduring value in at least some dignitarian categories, these theorists differ widely on how they should be interpreted, conceptualized, and applied in political and legal contexts. Some wish to salvage elements of more traditional concepts of human dignity, while others urge a wholesale revision. This new thinking about dignity has accordingly unsettled long-standing assumptions, and opened new questions. Perhaps human dignity is better construed as a social relation than simply as an inherent property of the individual that grounds their (human?) rights? Perhaps it is fragile and vulnerable, rather than the fixed and unchanging quality traditional accounts have stressed? Perhaps dignitarian claims are less about moral and/or equal status, and more how human worth or value is socially expressed and recognized, in a variety of contexts?

With the “contours of human dignity” (to use Killmister’s term) newly up for grabs, we invite abstracts of no more than 500 words, for a presentation of approx. 30 minutes addressing any pertinent aspect of this reinvigorated debate about the political significance of human dignity. We especially encourage papers on the following issues, although this is in no sense an exhaustive list:

·      nonWestern concepts of dignity, and their applicability to contemporary political issues

·      the suitability of human dignity, with its universalist overtones, as a lens for thinking about the oppression, marginalization, and dehumanization of particularized identity-groups

·      the democratic credentials of human dignity: does it require democracy? If so, in what form? When and how can democratic practices enhance or endanger human dignity?

·      The relation between human dignity and concepts of tolerance and respect: if assaults on human dignity often seem to mark the outer limit of the “tolerable,” what are the implications of a commitment to dignity for a tolerant society? If respect (strongly tied into the idea of dignity) requires that we do more than merely tolerate difference, are human dignity and tolerance in tension?

·      The role of human dignity in assessing economic arrangements, especially charges of workplace exploitation and domination, and the increasing reliance on Artificial Intelligence in the workplace and beyond.

·       Human dignity and non-human animals: does the concept of human dignity presuppose human supremacy, and if so is it instrumental in the oppression of non-human animals?

·      Human dignity and international law or human rights.

Please email your abstract to [email protected] and [email protected] by the end of the day on May 31st.

We will notify successful applicants by June 21st. If you are a graduate student, MANCEPT has a small number of fee-waiver bursaries for which you can apply after acceptance (the deadline is June 28th).  Please note that the 2024 MANCEPT workshops will be entirely in person events.

NB you will need to register for MANCEPT to attend this event.

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