This course concerns post-WW2 approaches to dehumanization. Dehumanization happens when people are depicted, regarded, or treated as not human or less human. Take the civilians that are tortured, raped, or killed in the shameful line-up of wars and violent conflicts that we have stockpiled over historical time, with no end in sight. Take that homeless people, sick people, refugees, or those deemed ‘racially inferior’ are often treated in a far from respectful manner, likened to bacteria, vermin, or waste, and treated alike. Take the age-old view that women are only a ‘second’ sex with all the consequences this view has had for the oppression and the violence women have had to face. Take abusive work relations as part of which people are treated as exploitable machines. These are all paradigmatic examples of dehumanization occurring as part of our contemporary social world. Philosophers and other scholars have addressed dehumanization since Greek Antiquity (even though often without using the word which has a rather recent prevalence). This course focuses on how understanding dehumanization has developed in philosophy and other fields (e.g. social psychology or genocide studies) since the early reactions to the Holocaust and other NS-atrocities.
In addition to studying the by-now classic contributions of authors from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds (e.g. Hannah Arendt, Frantz Fanon, Herbert Kelman), we will discuss contemporary issues related to the phenomenon, taking historical, philosophical and empirical issues into account, for instance: dehumanization before the Columbian exchange, how it figures in accounting for the Holocaust and other genocidal activities, how it relates to misogyny, racism, social exclusion, outgroup bias, mind attribution, or one’s imagination of one’s own future self.