Boundaries, Membership & Belonging
All societies distinguish members from non-members. Indeed, evolutionary biology and psychology suggest that humans are predisposed to distinguish “us” from “them,” and the process can lead to increased trust and cooperation towards members. But it can also lead to prejudice, suspicion and injustice towards non-members.
RESEARCH AND SOCIETAL IMPACT HIGHLIGHTS
Can appeals to human dignity motivate more altruistic attitudes towards vulnerable groups?
The concept of human dignity — that all humans are inherently valuable, deserve respect, and ought not to suffer undue humiliation — was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and appears in over 160 national constitutions. In recent years, it has also become an increasingly common term in politics and ordinary discourse. Program Co-Director Will Kymlicka and Fellow Evan Lieberman (MIT) are exploring whether reminding citizens of the core value of human dignity will carry sufficient political weight to affect individual attitudes and behaviours and expand the scope of political communities.
Understanding the relationship between COVID-19 and membership
Program members explore the tension between universal humanitarianism and group belonging. Several members are working on pandemic-related projects, such as examining how COVID-19 has affected membership bonds, and how pre-existing notions of membership exacerbated — or in a few cases, mitigated — the impact of COVID-19.
Exploring the public perception of minority populations
Program Co-Director Will Kymlicka (Queen’s University), Advisor Keith Banting (Queen’s University), and Fellow Allison Harell (Université du Québec à Montréal) have written a paper distinguishing three bases on which inclusion within redistributive schemes can be conceptualized. It explores how these various dimensions help explain how the public views the inclusion of immigrants within the welfare state, why a range of minorities are often seen as lacking a commitment to the larger society, and how this affects perceptions of whether they are deserving of social rights.
Highlighting the exclusionary nature of nationalism
Fellow Prerna Singh (Brown University) published an article in Nationalities Papers that highlights the negative consequences of exclusionary nationalistic appeals for both societies and individuals. The paper underscores the dual nature of nationalism as an ideology that can lead to terrible exclusions toward targeted out-groups but can also result in positive collective action and psychological support. Engaging with policymaking at the international level
Program members engaged with two special rapporteurs working on behalf of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Through their participation at a program meeting, they gained insights on issues of human rights, international solidarity, and minority issues. This initial engagement will inform future directions for the program’s emerging impact strategy.
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Fellows & Advisors
CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars
Boundaries, Membership & Belonging
Watch CIFAR fellows explain how divisions shape our lives, what lies between borders, and what membership means now.October 09, 2019
CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.