Thinking dignity: re-imagining democracy
This panel examines how state commitments to human dignity – principally in constitutional law – demarcate lines of belonging across multiple axes. Historically, dignity was tied to sovereignty and to formal citizenship, allocated sparingly to certain classes, certain religions, and to only one gender. But the universalization of dignity since the UN Charter and the UDHR has meant that “all members of the human family“ have legal claims based on their inherent and equal human dignity. This has required not only revising the lines of legal entitlement but reconceptualizing who can gain access to all the benefits of full citizenship. Courts around the world are vindicating these claims in cases that are re-defining rights and making ever greater demands on states. This panel explores how the concept of dignity denotes lines of inclusion and exclusion within political and social spaces and how the law‘s recognition and reaffirmation of humans’ inherent worth is shifting sovereign power.