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Humiliation: And Other Essays on Honor, Social Discomfort, and Violence Paperback – May 5, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0801481178 ISBN-10: 0801481171 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (May 5, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801481171
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801481178
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,508,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

From Vikings to valentines, crimes to dinner invitations, Miller (Law/University of Michigan) here explores the mercurial history of the emotions, attitudes, values, and behaviors associated with honor--its defense, loss, survival, and display- -drawing on evidence from the Greek epics and Icelandic sagas to contemporary horror movies. Miller (a self-described ``social constructionist'') traces the sources of such uncomfortable emotions as shame and humiliation to ancient and subtle codes of honor that still survive today. Contemporary exchanges, however banal, he says, involve the same issues of prestige, self-esteem, reciprocity, and violence as did those in primitive societies, although modern manifestations are often internalized and psychological. Miller finds reciprocity to be a central concept in humiliation, involving not only the appropriate responses to gifts and hospitality, however unwanted, but also--on the dark side--retribution, paying back, maintaining face, and shaming. The author offers useful and precise distinctions between shame and humiliation, as well as between the various strategies used to avoid them--assuming the mantle of humility or indifference, for instance, or embracing and enduring humiliation like Dostoyevsky's Underground Man. Miller's larger purpose seems to be to dispute the universality of emotional expression: Some emotions, he claims, produce ``predictable somatic displays'' that can lead to a belief in a universal vocabulary of emotional expression--but, in fact, these expressions should be interpreted according to the different periods and cultures in which they arise. Translating emotions over time and across cultures is Miller's major methodological challenge--and he meets it with ranging and learned references, a wry and unpretentious style, and a genuine respect for the power of those ancient, forgotten sources on which modern social exchange depends. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"In an illuminating and darkly intelligent study, Miller has revealed humiliation as the closet dominatrix she is, an emotion whose power to discipline us makes the world go round. . . . Miller makes his pages blaze and roar by throwing another handful of hollow complacencies upon the fire. . . . The five essays making up this book are about the persistence of the norm of reciprocity in our daily lives, about the possibility of tracking emotions across time and culture, and about the ways in which shame and envy and especially humiliation sustain 'cultures of honor' to this day."—Speculum



"Translating emotions over time and across cultures is Miller's major methodological challenge—and he meets it with ranging and learned references, a wry and unpretentious style, and a genuine respect for the power of those ancient, forgotten sources on which modern social exchange depends."—Kirkus Reviews



"Miller deploys the resources of a host of disparate disciplines in order to reveal the remarkable richness of certain emotional experiences—emotions that help shape the words and actions of human beings when they perform the immensely complex work ofmaintaining the social worlds that they construct, and which help construct them. In doing so, he has written a unique and valuable book."—Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Brian G. on June 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I had the privilege of studying the dynamics of the blood feud culture under Professor Miller. After the class I began reading some of his literature.
Miller's combination of historiography, psychological and philosophical analysis, and literary criticism results in an extremely perceptive look at emotions and impulses people would rather not admit to having. His frank but non-judgmental evaluation of his own actions and those of the people around him contribute greatly to the reader's understanding of shame and humiliation. His view of the world of gift-giving, both positive and negative, is a perfect explanation for much of human behavior and motivation.
A must-read for anyone who has ever inflicted humiliation on another, or had it inflicted on oneself, or for anyone interested in learning why human beings behave the way they do.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Political Observer on May 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a phenomenal book on the nature of humiliation - and especially the ways that humiliation continues to play a fundamental role in structuring contemporary society.

Not an easy read necessarily - but it definitely repays the close attention it requires. It will change the way you look at society today - as well as giving you a bit of a whirlwind tour of icelandic heroic sagas. Not something you can say about most books!
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