Faculty Fall 2022: Burleigh Hendrickson

Dignity and Indignation from the Enlightenment to the Arab Spring

Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies

I will use residential fellowship at the Humanities Institute to work on my second book project, “Dignity and Indignation from the Enlightenment to the Arab Spring.” The project applies postcolonial theory to Enlightenment concepts of dignity and indignation that have shaped modern knowledge production related to humanity, ethics, and universalism, giving way to the human rights discourses of the 20th century. While scholarship on human rights has proliferated in the last decade, human dignity, on which these discourses are founded, remains a key understudied aspect explaining human responses to global injustice, particularly outside the scope of philosophy. This project traces the genealogy of these two countervailing concepts to document their fluid transformation across time and space. Focusing on a series of interrelated anticolonial resistance (Haitian, Algerian, Tunisian) and counterrevolutionary discourses across the colonial and postcolonial Francophone world, I hope to shift human dignity to the forefront of rights claims, and examine various expressions of indignation that its absence provokes.