Book Review: Dignity — The Essential Role it Plays in Resolving Conflict

Janneke with her regular companion, a cup of coffee!

Janneke with her regular companion, a cup of coffee!

Dignity: The Essential Role it Plays in Resolving Conflict
by Donna Hicks, Ph.D, (2011)
Forward by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Book Review by Janneke Weidema, Pretoria Worship Group — July 2015

I was excited to read this book, because of the title and subtitle of this book, especially the link with resolving conflict. I could relate this to my own life, and being a peace monitor during and after the struggle times in South Africa. This subject also relates to many of the current issues in South Africa, for example, keeping or removing statues of imperial or apartheid leaders, such as Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town. I also think that many white people in South Africa don’t understand or ignore the psychological damage that apartheid did to black South Africans. And black South Africans don’t always acknowledge this either.

The author begins by describing how she discovered the importance of dignity in conflict resolution. She describes this almost as a “crash conversion” to the idea, and her dignity model was born. She defines what she understands as dignity, and she devotes a chapter to each aspect. She also describes how dignity underlies, and can be used, in conflict resolution.

The book is well written. However, it is quite descriptive, and would have benefited from more discussion and analysis. The author also seems at times to overstate the importance of dignity in conflict resolution. While dignity is important, it is not the sole contributor to conflict resolution.

I feel that reading the book would be valuable for most South Africans. It would be good for whites to become more sensitive to the hurt apartheid did to their fellow black South Africans. And reading this book would be a useful way for black South Africans to become more conscious of the issue of dignity, and to face the pain of apartheid. Thus, the book would help the many sides of South Africa.

And for Quakers, we focus on “that of God in everyone”, and the issue of dignity is very relevant to us. We all need to understand that a major source of many accusations of racism is the pain and hurt of apartheid. We need to individually and collectively recognize the importance of dignity and the pain and hurt of those who have had their dignity taken from them if we are to collectively move forward and not remain imprisoned by our past.

— Janneke Weidema

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