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Title: Power, the party and the people : the significance of humiliation in representations of the German Democratic Republic
Author: Leask, P. G.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2732 6211
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis reconsiders the nature of humiliation, defining it as an exercise of power, and argues that the SED consciously and as a matter of habit used humiliation to seek to shape people’s lives in the GDR. It seeks to understand the processes that led to this happening and the consequences of it. The thesis considers different theoretical approaches to humiliation and contrasts it with shame. It argues that humiliation is a demonstrative use of power with a recurring set of elements: stripping of status; arbitrariness or unpredictability on the part of the humiliator; exclusion or rejection of the victim; and a personal sense of injustice matched by the lack of any remedy for the injustice suffered. It suggests that the emotions flowing from an act of humiliation follow a predictable course and the consequences for the victim, and often for the society, are serious and long-lasting. This understanding of humiliation is applied to a close reading of literary fiction, films, letters, diaries and memoirs from the whole period of the GDR and beyond. These sources suggest that humiliation or the fear of humiliation was a constantly recurring feature of the relationship between the people and representatives of the SED and the State. The thesis considers the founding myths, the norms and values implied by them, and how and why the Party breached these by humiliating its perceived opponents. It looks at the Party’s hostility to Freudian as opposed to Marxist-Leninist ways of understanding human behaviour, analyses different forms of humiliation shown to take place in everyday life and discusses why the Party used humiliation against its own members. It concludes by considering the impact of humiliation on the attempts to develop the GDR as a ‘normal’ society and discusses some of the present-day implications of this understanding of humiliation.
Supervisor: Bird, S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available