Saturday, 19 November 2011

What is Dehumanization?

Dehumanization, as a term has a number of meanings in context with various subjects.

In medical term it may be said to be a process whereby an individual is stripped off his human qualities such as self-esteem or his individuality.  It is a death before death for a person.

In another context, dehumanization is a form of public manipulation against a particular ideology, a race or for that matter a political party.  It is defined as a deliberate removal of human traits.  An example in this context can be given of Adolf Hitler, in which he had referred to the Jewish community as ‘vermins’ or ‘rats’.  The conditions of the Jewish population during the German regime were a perfect example of dehumanization of a community.   History has many such examples whereby people have been forced to think of the ‘enemy’ as an ‘object’ that has to be punished, stripped off its ‘human’ factor.

Other examples of dehumanization are the ways in which a criminal is treated by the prison staff.  He is allocated an identification number which becomes his name.  This makes the person an ‘object’ with an ID number instead of an individual with a name.  This brings out the interpersonal relationship between the inmate and the law officers.   The same is the case with prisoners of war who are termed as POW and not by their actual names.  They are regarded as opponents or enemies. 

Another instance of dehumanization is the stance taken by many abortion supporting groups which refer to the child or baby in terms of ‘fetus’. 

Thus, dehumanization has meanings of different kinds, and in different context.  For a common definition from the above instances, one can say that ‘Dehumanization’, as a term is a psychological process whereby a opponent is stripped off from being less than a human without having any moral or legal rights as a human being..

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