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Where there is no shame, there is no honor. African proverb The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is. George Bernard Shaw A great deal can be learned about communities by an examination of how they conceive of, enact, and deal with “shame.” Shame is most frequently associated with notions of guilt, but it is also, and perhaps more interestingly, linked to humiliation, decency, modesty, honor, embarrassment, and disgrace. As the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, or that of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter suggests, shame is deeply rooted in our awareness of our own sexuality, although it clearly extends well beyond it. Questions surrounding the concept of shame address a wide range of issues: from its role in a given culture (ours and others) to whether there are religions in which it plays no role; from its portrayal in fiction, poetry, and myth to conventions of modesty in the history of art; and from its evolutionary emergence to whether it qualifies as an emotion and how it figures in psychoanalytic theory. The principle motivation for this special issue of Social Research, however, is the sense that we live in a culture that may becoming shamefully shameless—in which shame may be dying, if not already dead. Is this true? If true, how did it happen, and why? What does it mean to be shameless, and what are the consequences ? Is this state of affairs likely to change? There are many questions to be asked about shame and shamelessness , some of which emerge in this issue. As the papers that follow illustrate, an examination of shame can in fact lift cultural veils and reveal much about a society, and so the significance of the discussion presented here extends well beyond these pages. Arien Mack Editor Editor’s Introduction ...


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