Human Dignity as Status Politics

This paper proposes to read some of the contemporary usages of the human dignity principle as instances of what Joseph Gusfield once called status politics. Gusfield’s frame allows us to read these uses as a result of crusades, triggered by identitarian panic entrepreneurs, who seek to (re)affirm the cohesiveness of their group by rallying around or behind abstract norms of behavior. By doing so, they simultaneously include and exclude – thus producing “Others” at the very moment they affirm an “Us”. The chapter focuses on two main illustrations of such contemporary “moral panics” in France and Europe in an era in which anxieties relating to national security feed into pre-existing challenges posed by multiculturalism; these illustrations are taken in the fields of nationality law and the legal status of aliens.