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Dignity Road Report* - April, 201423rd Annual Dignity Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Reflections written by Evelin Lindner in Thailand after the 12th Urban Culture Forum at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, and the 23rd Annual Conference of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, 'Returning Dignity', in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

At the 12th Urban Culture Forum at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, a group of doctoral students presented a fascinating project titled ‘The Resonance of Reasons from the Streets of Bangkok’. This presentation documented the high sense of responsibility among protesters in Bangkok, responsibility not just for oneself and one’s family, but for Thailand as a whole.

When I gave my talk the next day, I began by asking the audience: ‘How many of you feel a responsibility for your family and for Thailand?’ And then I asked: ‘How many of you feel a responsibility for our planet with all its people and animals?’ Almost everyone raised their hands.

With these questions I placed a value choice at the outset of my lecture. I did this to counter the trend in contemporary academia to obscure value choices by bypassing them. I agree with Kjell Skyllstad, the convener of this conference, that present-day social sciences need to revive their responsibility, which is to think critically (see Habermas, 1973).

What is at stake? At stake is the scope of justice, or the reach of morals: ‘Individuals or groups within our moral boundaries are seen as deserving of the same fair, moral treatment as we deserve. Individuals or groups outside these boundaries are seen as undeserving of this same treatment’ (Coleman, 2000, p. 118). I highly appreciated that the students care about society at large, not just about their own career. I admire that they make their research relevant to society.

Likewise, I admired the courage of another group of doctoral students who problematised the role of sexuality in society. Their presentation was titled ‘Wall of Sex’. The choice of this topic was so extraordinary that the following note was attached to it in the programme: ‘this important presentation deals with & displays mature subject matter that may be offensive to some; viewer discretion is advised’. In our conference in Chiang Mai, it was researcher Patchanee Malikhao who spoke on a related theme, on ‘Culture, Religion, and HIV/Aids in Thailand’. See also her book Sex in the Village: Culture, Religion and HIV/AIDS in Thailand, Malikhao, 2011.

With my question about global responsibility, I intended to convey two messages, first, that it is possible to widen the scope of justice from the personal to the national and to the global level, and, second, that the shouldering of global responsibility is what is needed most when the local is captive to global pressures. [read more]

My reflections were published also here:
Urban Dignity - Global Dignity: What Is It? How Do we Achieve It? (Part 1 in Volume 8)
Urban Dignity - Global Dignity: What Is It? How Do we Achieve It? (Part 2 in Volume 9)
in the Journal of Urban Culture Research, Volume 8 and 9, 2014, Arts and Social Outreach – Designs for Urban Dignity, Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts, published jointly by Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, and Osaka City University, Japan.

Please see the picture blog of my time in Thailand and Cambodia on my 2014 pictures page, and see also my picture blogs of the other years.

Please see, furthermore, Newsletter 23 that I prepared after our conference in Chiang Mai, and see also the Newsletters of the others years.