Monday, June 13, 2016

Reclaiming 'shame'

Public Release: 12-Apr-2016
Reclaiming 'shame'
UC Santa Barbara sociologist explores 'the hidden literature of shame'
University of California - Santa Barbara

Shame shaming. Is that even possible?

It may not make sense that there would be shame over using the term itself, but it's all too true, even in academia, according to UC Santa Barbara researcher Thomas Scheff. In a new paper, the emeritus professor of sociology explores what he described as "the hidden literature of shame."

In "The S-Word Is Taboo: Shame Is Invisible in Modern Societies," Scheff examines in detail six studies that, at their core, are each about shame yet, in every case but one, are light on actually saying so. The piece is published in the Journal of General Practice.

"With my student and co-author, Steve Matteo, we looked at studies which we thought would be about shame, but only one of them actually mentioned shame," Scheff said. "They use terms such as ostracism, outgrouping, social pain, social suffering -- that's all shame.


The hiding of most shame studies is further evidence of how deeply shame is still taboo in modern societies."


"There is a universal component [to shame], set in motion by threat to the social bond," Scheff stated. "If that is the case, we need to reclaim the many fields that so far have used alternate terms, such as honor, stigma, fear of rejection, disrespect, social pain and more. The taboo on shame has many weakening effects on knowledge, because it cordons off into separate groups what ought to be a single field, reinforcing the existing taboo.


It appears that many of the worst features of modern societies, such as withdrawal, violence and unnecessary conflict, may be caused, in part, by the hiding of shame. Perhaps it may be possible to bring shame out of the closet."


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