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About the Dignity Initiative

This interdisciplinary research project responds to the recent imperatives to better understand the notion of dignity and the social contexts in which an individual's dignity can be actualized or painfully ruptured. The requirement to protect dignity is limited without a clear definition of what exactly it is. In spite of the fact that it is a grounding concept underpinning international human rights theory, dignity is a complex, multifaceted and highly contested concept.

We assembled a multidisciplinary team comprising philosophers, anthropologists, neuroscientists, epidemiologists collaborating across multiple universities, as well as experts in international development and gender at UNICEF to examine the institutional, social, material and psychological contexts that enable the enactment and experience of dignity. The research team pays close attention to feminist and culturally appropriate conceptualisations of dignity, its relation to inequality in various geographical, economic and cultural settings, and  explores the question of how dignity may be measured.

The project is centered at McGill University, Montreal, and funded by the Foundation for Psychocultural Research in Los Angeles and collaborates closely with UNICEF.Unicef Innocenti. McGill’s participating offices include the Division of Social & Transcultural Psychiatry, the Institute for Health & Social Policy (IHSP), and School of Population & Global Health (SPGH).

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Samuel Bickel

Formerly with the Regional Office of South Asia (ROSA), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Samuel Bickel is a former Senior Advisor of Evaluation and Research at the UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) Region Office for South Asia, which is a leading global organization that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. There, he facilitated UNICEF to determine the impact of programs supporting children across the South Asia region nations of Maldives, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India.

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Suparna Choudhury

Division of Transcultural Psychiatry & Institute for Health and Social Policy (IHSP), McGill University

Prof. Suparna Choudhury is the Leader of the Dignity Initiative. She is an Assistant Professor at the Division of Social & Transcultural Psychiatry, and co-director of the Culture, Mind, and Brain Program at McGill University, Canada. She is also a Founder of the Critical Neuroscience Research Program, which integrates scientific studies and medical anthropology to examine the methodology of constructing neuroscience inquiries and the implication of research findings to public health and society. Her ongoing research includes the relation between cannabis uses and the developing brain, urban living as a factor of developing psychosis, and the scientific and cultural contexts of mindfulness interventions in education and juvenile justice settings.

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Adam Etison

Department of Philosophy, University of St Andrews, United Kingdom


Adam Etinson is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, where he is also Assistant Director of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs (CEPPA). His articles have appeared in a wide range of academic journals, including The Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Utilitas, The Journal of Moral Philosophy, Political Theory, and Human Rights Quarterly. He has also written for popular audiences in The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, and Dissent.

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Jaswant Guzder

Division of Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University

Dr. Guzder is the former Head of Child Psychiatry and Director of Childhood Disorders Day Hospital at the Jewish General Hospital, Founding Clinical Director of Cultural Consultation Services at the Jewish General Hospital, and Associate to Faculty of Social Work at McGill University.

As a psychiatrist, Dr Guzder specializes in child and family psychiatry based on multicultural methodologies. She has international collaborations with institutes in India and Jamaica working with South Asian and Caribbean populations. Her recent project is resilience promotion for high-risk children in a school affiliated intervention from age 8 to 12 at the Dream a World Cultural Resilience Project. Most recently, as an artist, Dr Guzder held artist residencies in Rome and Berlin prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Suzy Killmister

Department of Philosophy, Monash University

Prof. Suzy Killmister is a Regular Faculty at the Department of Philosophy at Monash University, Australia. Her area of specialization is social and political philosophy, specifically studies of gender, race, and sexuality. She is also interested in normative ethics, meta-ethics, and philosophy of law. In her recent projects, she investigates the concept of dignity and the relationship between dignity and minority rights. Prof. Killmister’s work has appeared in a variety of prestigious scholarly journals and collected volumes, including Philosophical Studies and Nous. In 2020 she penned the book, Contours of Dignity.

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Brandon Kohrt

Global Health Institute, Duke University

Prof. Brandon Kohrt is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Global Health at Duke University, US. Trained as a medical anthropologist and psychiatrist, Prof. Kohrt conducts global mental health research focusing on populations affected by war-related trauma and chronic stressors of poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to healthcare and education. He has published scientific articles and book chapters about mental health among conflict- and disaster-affected populations in Nepal, Liberia, and Haiti. Prof. Kohrt has collaborated on numerous documentary films about human rights and global health including Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal’s Maoist Army. 

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Michael Marmot

Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London (UCL) & Chair of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization (WHO)

Sir Michael Marmot is a Professor of Epidemiology at University College London, UK, the director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, UK, and a past President of the World Medical Association. Being a public health expert, he has conducted many groundbreaking studies on heart diseases and strokes. His primary interest is inequalities in health and their causes, in which he has led research groups for over 40 years. Prof. Marmot also owns extensive publications on inequality issues in health, including Status Syndrome: how your place on the social gradient directly affects your health (2004), and The Health Gap: the challenge of an unequal world (2015). Recently, he published Build Back Fairer: The COVID 19 Marmot Review (2020), aiming to Examine inequalities in COVID-19 mortality, show the effects of societal response to the pandemic on social and economic equality status, and improve current policies.

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Jeffrey Snodgrass

Department of Anthropology, Colorado State University

Prof. Jeffrey G. Snodgrass is a Professor at the Department of Anthropology, an Adjunct Professor at the School of Public Health at Colorado State University, US. He is also the Director of Ethnographic Research and Teaching Lab in Ecology at the same university, which aims to add anthropological perspective to the current thinking of global mental health.


As a critical psychiatric anthropologist, Prof. Snodgrass investigates the social foundations of mental well-being and the bio-psycho-cultural therapeutics of ritual and play, with a specific interest in understanding how human health and healing processes function naturally and how built environments experiencing dramatic change, high risk, and uncertainty. His publications include Casting Kings: Bards and Indian Modernity (2006), and Indigenous Peoples and the Collaborative Stewardship of Nature: Knowledge Binds and Institutional Conflicts (2011).

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Natalie Stoljar

Department of Philosophy & Institute for Health and Social Policy (IHSP), McGill University

Prof. Stoljar is a Professor at the Department of Philosophy at McGill University, Canada. She was the Chair of the Department from 2008-2012, Interim Director of the Institute for Health and Social Policy in 2018-2019, and Interim Director of the Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies in 2020-21. Her research focuses on three areas: feminist philosophy, social and political philosophy, and the philosophy of law. In feminist philosophy, she has written extensively on feminist metaphysics, especially gender essentialism, realism and nominalism. She is also the subject editor for Gender and Feminism for The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (General Editor, Tim Crane, University of Cambridge). In the philosophy of law, Prof. Stoljar has published on legal interpretation, constitutional interpretation and judicial review, and the methodology of law. She is currently working on procedural justice and the ethics of policy and legal processes. Her forthcoming publications include Autonomy and Equality: Relational Approaches (Routledge 2021).

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Eran Tal

Department of Philosophy, McGill University

Prof. Tal is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at McGill University, Canada and Canada Research Chair in Data Ethics. He specializes in philosophy of science, philosophy of measurement, and the ethics of big data and artificial intelligence. He was also a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge until 2016, and before that an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow at Bielefeld University in Germany. His work focuses on the interplay between instruments and knowledge claims in the sciences, on the roles epistemic and social values play in scientific inquiry, and on the relationships between error, uncertainty and risk. His current research projects include data ethics and responsible measurement, the conceptual foundations of psychometrics, and the epistemology of measurement.

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Carol Worthman

Department of Anthropology, Emory University

Prof. Worthman is a Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor and a former Chair at the Department of Anthropology at Emory University, US, and the current Chair of International Advisory Council, Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives at McGill University, Canada. She is also the Director at the Laboratory for Comparative Human Biology at the same university, collaborating with her colleagues and students to examine the biocultural interface. She is actively involved in diverse fields, including biocultural dynamics in mental and physical health, life history and life course processes, human developmental ecology and epidemiology, sleep and emotion regulation, health disparities; cross-cultural mental health. As a biological anthropologist, she aims to illuminate the pathways to differential human well-being, and thereby to both critique existing social conditions and point the way toward redressing and forestalling distress and inequity.

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