Associate Professor Luis Cabrera
Jeremy Waldron argues that human dignity should be conceived primarily as an 'aristocratic' rank now conferred on all persons within sets of legal norms and practices. In this approach, dignity is constituted by law and closely tied to equality under it, or the status of 'legal citizen.' This article critiques such a conception via the work of B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956), India's revered champion of Dalits (formerly 'untouchables') and architect of its 1950 Constitution. Ambedkar's work highlights some significant challenges to conceptualizations of dignity as both aristocratic and acquired through membership in a legal-political system. He offers multiple distinctive groundings for an innate conception of dignity, or high moral worth, including ones drawn from Hindu and Buddhist doctrinal sources. His conceptualization also offers clarity in ultimately situating human moral worth opposite not degradation into an animal state, but humiliation and atrocities: attacks meant to publicly identify the victim as inferior.
Luis Cabrera is Associate Professor of Political Science in the Griffith Asia Institute and School of Government and International Relations. He has published widely in global political theory, with an emphasis on global citizenship and the development of more cosmopolitan regional and global institutions. His current monograph is The Humble Cosmopolitan: Rights, Diversity and Trans-state Democracy (forthcoming 2019, Oxford University Press). It draws extensively on the political thought of Indian constitutional architect B.R. Ambedkar, and on field research with present-day Dalit rights activists and government officials in India.