Doctoral Research Project

Hannah Arendt and Meaningful Idea on Human Dignity

Power of Public Space – Truth and Politics in Arendt, Gender Approach



Status: Accepted for presentation at the University of Cape Town, Political Studies Department, South Africa conference: “Gender, Symbolic Reparations and the Arts: Exploring and Disrupting Narratives of Gender Based Violence within Transitional Justice”. 


Key words: transitional justice, memory, reconciliation, plurality, gender

Hannah Arendt was political theorist of 20th century who have accurately identified and pointed out at many perplexities related to human rights and humanity which deeply infringed upon human dignity. Her work has been both criticized and acknowledged as unique, however she did offer enormous contribution not only to political theory but to the field of transitional justice and peace studies even that she has not been studied much in that direction. Her central theory is based on plurality – comprised of unique human beings able to appear in public by speaking and acting thus affirming their belonging to political community. However, as the history and experiences show women are not only persistenly excluded from the public space, but systematically excluded from substantive peace processes towards reconciliation. For Arendt the public is comprised of actors who are storytellers, and spectators who guarantee the objective reality, therefore raising the question especially in post-conflict setting of who tells the truth and who remembers. Remembrance is tantamount for reconciliation which is not forgiveness but understanding what past had entailed, and most importantly entails possibility for not reconciling as Arendt shows us in the case of Eichmann. Therefore, the essay will explore the role of women – as storyteller and women –judge in creation of public opinion and narratives related to reconciliation and truth especially in the context of Ex-Yugoslavia (crime of rape for first time was established with the International Criminal Tribunal for Ex- Yugoslavia) where efforts to truth and reconciliation have been unfortunately quite ineffective.


Plurality and Hate Speech – Legal and Political aspects through Hannah Arendt


Conference “Words that Kill”

American University of Paris, May 2018

The essay will explore in interdisciplinary manner (international human rights law, international criminal law and political theory of Hannah Arendt) the development of “hate speech”, which gains enormous importance with the raising xenophobia, nationalism and racism. Indeed, the inceptions of the crime could be traced back in the Rwandan Genocide where the incitement of genocide took place through the local radio.However, in the era of internet the question arises whether the virtual space is political spaces stricto sensu or erodes it though the ongoing hate speech. Both in virtual or real perspective the broader legal and political implications of hate speech are unclear, and by that of crimes against humanity and genocide. Furthermore, the parallelism of freedom of speech and expression with hate speech is a hoax, due to the fact that they have different agency. The former concerns individuals and the latter – groups.

In attempting to provide not only legal but broader political clarity of the hate speech and crimes against humanity and genocide I will use as a theoretical framework Hannah Arendt’s central theory of plurality.  Plurality in Arendt is elucidated in the fact ofbeing able to belong to a political community where one is free to speak and act. This is the core of Arendt’s idea on human dignity and human rights which is based on the unique distinctness of individuals who belong to a group through sharing common world, ideas and characteristics not necessarily but including – the language.

However, plurality for Arendt has double-edged sword meaning, and therefore is very potent. The other side of plurality is what Arendt had saw the exceptional nature of the crimes against humanity and genocide, as attacks to the human plurality and status and therefore representing extraordinary crimes which are of concern of whole humanity. The Statute of the International Criminal Court confirms in its definitions of crimes, the element of “plurality” as a required actusreus.No individual only is capable of committing such crimes which require state machinery reflected in the existence of bureaucracy and ideology.

Arendt had examined the phenomenological nature of politics in the essay Lying in Politics, but as well throughout her all theoretical work. Being aware of the destructive aspect of plurality and thus politics as result she insisted strongly on the common world and public space as guardian against the “evil”. It is puzzling that she had wrote another essay Truth and Politics whereby she was concerned with the role of the justice and politics, which for her are at odds with each other, if certain elements are absent such as objectivity and impartiality and understanding of the truth (factual and rational). The problem for Arendt between truth or justice and politics stems from the rational truths, whereas the power of the common world and space for her is settled between factual truths and opinion as way of political thinking and enforcing public space.

“Hate Speech” in Social Media Hannah Arendt’s concept of “plurality” as a solution


The development of human rights law and theory should follow not only the technological developments but the realities on the ground. Of course this is an ideal flow of developing the relevant jurisprudence. However, without at least conceptual clarity on concepts which are developed or in the process of evolving represents not only impediment for the legal science and practice but also dangerous enterprise. In that sense, not only the international law and human rights both on local, regional and international level should be reexamined and set on the right track, but the public discourse should be modified for that purpose. With the increasing rise of xenophobia, populism and nationalism the question of hate speech takes immense importance in the developments on international and EU level. Additionally, with the explosion of the social media like facebook, twitter and others this is even more relevant. Social media have been used both to mobilize actions and activism of large extent (for example, the Arab spring) and in same time to incite hate, racism, discrimination and violence regardless of the sides. This kind of situation opens questions not only on the role and effect of the social media, and to which extent they could be considered as political and public space, or our common “virtual” world (The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt p.57 and 199) and the effect of their instant dissemination power by which the erosion of the public debate and sphere is enforced. Without public debate and sphere there is no politics or common world, and without politics there is no freedom since this is the raison de etre of the former. The public space is of utmost importance since this is the space and place where freedom to act and speak reinforce our belonging to a political community (Human Condition, p.178 and 179) And plurality or belonging to a political community to which we identify but yet distinguish with both through speech and action (especially the former) is of immense importance of protecting the human dignity, which does not concerns individuals but groups. Oppositely from the traditional moralistic conceptions on human dignity which is focused on the individual itself, my understanding through the work of Hannah Arendt is focused on the plurality or the political community, and its expression (affirmative) and protection (negative) in the objective reality or the public sphere.

To come back to the question of hate speech especially on social media that opens numerous problems of legal, ethical, political and technological nature something that Arendt could provide for answers. Historically, the initial practical development of hate speech prohibitions and criminalization and especially incitement of racial hatred commences more intensely with the Rwandan genocide where the incitement to ethnic hatred resulted in genocide against Tutsis. The propaganda was carried out through the local radio. Thus, the relevant international legal instruments existing are the Convention on Prevention and Protection of Genocide, International Convention for Elimination of Racial Discrimination, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and etc. On European level is the European Convention on Human Rights and attempts but still rudimentary of the European Union to tackle these issues. Nonetheless, the definitions in the stated documents are broad and do not respond to the complex realities we are living in. On the other hand, the requirements exist for national authorities to prohibit and criminalize the hate speech and crimes reflected in racist, defamatory and xenophobic speech, as various national legislations deem relevant. Whether this is the case and to which extent is a matter of evaluation and reporting especially by Special Rapportuers and country progresses and processes individually.

In analyzing or evaluating hate speech and crimes committed notably as result of it, the most common element that should be looked at is  the “group” element or the plurality – belonging to a political community whose link and identification with is through the speech itself. The speech is what brings certain political community or plurality together, and the speech is what can be action or criminal conduct (actus reus)  in violating or infringing the same political community. Thus, plurality in Arendt has definitely double sword meaning. Here is also the requirement on the existence of the infrastructure and system or bureaucracy which is also related to existence of plurality (esp, in cases of genocide and crimes against humanity). No individual could commit such crimes. Therefore, the orchestrated and state instrumentalized commission of crimes should be looked at, rather than isolated cases of individual actors. However, those individuals could be belonging to the system or hold publicly relevant position, and thus be found accountable. Ultimately the system or state itself should be accountable of not preventing and addressing the existence of hate crimes something similar to the institute of (due diligence) developed by the European Court of Human Rights. Thus, the main point is that the group or belonging to political community is a political criteria rather than social as one definition on hate speech suggest (Repression of Hate Speech: its foundations in international and EU law, Fabio Marcielli), and this should be clarified.

Furthermore, under the umbrella of the common term and definition “hate speech” everything possible is included from racism, hatred, discrimination to violence. Instead various legal thresholds should be developed for each of one as the practice on European Court of Human Rights in terms of discrimination and non-discrimination shows. It is dangerous to keep everything under the nomination of “hate speech”. Every racist statement is discriminatory in its core and thus carries violence in its self, but not every discriminatory statement is per se racist. Clear distinction especially in legal terms is required.

The balance and dichotomy of determining the boundaries between freedom of expression and hate speech is flawed. For the simple reason of the difference of the “agent/s” individual vs. plural, hate speech is qualified as such because it concerns group of people or plurality, and no individual only. The definition on hate speech should make this distinction.

Finally, opening a debate of social media as public spaces vis a vis  outlets for erosion of those political space and public debates within. Subsequently the sub issues of social media   as instant dissemination tools for activism vis a vis methods for inciting xenophobia, hatred, racism and violence, and the accountability thereof. The legal instruments stated above do not deal with these issues except the Council of Europe Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime from 2003 which requires states to criminalize any racist and xenophobic conduct done on internet and through internet. However, this again remains matter of national legislation and the development of the national judicial practice. In that direction, this is tantamount in further development of the institute of hate speech and crimes committed as a result.

By Jana Lozanoska

Phd Candidate at UN University for Peace, San Jose Costa Rica.

Daily Food for Thought

On refugees and stateless

Refugees and stateless are not only outcasts in international  and national terms, but in Arendt’s words ‘[t] heir plight is not that they are not equal before law, but that no law exists for them; not that they are oppressed but no one wants to oppress them’ (OT, 295,296). Thus, it is striking and troubling in the same time to realize that transitional justice, which is a step of the society towards reconciliation and  finding out the truth that totally neglects the question of refugees and stateless. Any further approach on transitional justice must incorporate the growing problems of refugees and stateless. If not claims on transitional justice and truth and reconciliation are in advance doomed to failure, and transitional justice another fancy term with no meaning whatsoever.


*** These ideas are part of my doctoral work and thus are submitted to the rules of academic and intellectual ethics. Any use is subject to approval by the author***

Why I disagree with Galtung Transcend Method through Hannah Arendt lenses?

Peace and conflict studies require humanism and political theory!

These are key points I am planning to develop in full academic article in the near future. Galtung’s theoretical work is provoking to say at least since his method is a mixture of various approaches and fields of studies. Thus, it is more than necessary that his work is re-examined. His work is provoking, since there are similarities and differences with the Hannah Arendt’s approach which at the beginning of my doctoral thesis I have named it “transcendental bridge”. Thereafter, I have re framed it following mainly the work of Roger Berkowitz to “bridging gaps” between past and future. Arendt’s own method could excavate in her volume Between Past and Future – Six Exercises of Political Thought. This should be as well read with the Human Condition, and the Essays on Understanding of Politics.

The similarity between Arendt and Galtung is that both use space and time, however Arendt’s theoretical work attempts to substantively explain humanity and the world by bringing back the lost meaning of some important concepts such as human dignity, peace, justice and equality. Therefore, Arendt could be definitely among others studied in peace and conflict studies. On the other hand,Galtung is overly technical and abstract which in times we live in represents a danger due to the necessity that scholars and peace workers need to understand the realities and think per se. Thinking is something that Arendt developed as a interest due to the fact that she found the greatest evil takes place in world in the case of thoughtlessness, something she found to exist in Eichmann during his trial. From that point she develops the importance of judging as a tool to see whether thinking has occurred or not. In case of Eichmann this did not exist, since he obeyed the orders without questioning them. As Judith Butler has stated what has become genocidal is the non-thinking itself.

As mentioned Galtung similarly as Arendt uses time and space, but forgets about one important aspect which is the political space that according to Arendt is per se unpredictable. Margaret Canovan interprets this as double unpredictability, as related to the novelty each newcomer brings in the world as an actor and the relationship with other actors.

Another aspect which is problematic is that throughout his work the level of abstractness is dangerous since as Arendt had noted previously on human rights declarations ‘refer to human beings who exist nowhere’. Instead of providing substantive meaning to concepts like peace, human rights, equality, freedom and justice he rather develops technical tools for allegedly arriving at peace a concept that terrible requires substance nowadays.

Key points of disagreement:

  • Through technicality takes out the substantive meaning of concepts which are really important such as peace, justice, equality and freedom;
  • Too normative and dogmatic – fixed understanding of dynamics which per se is unpredictable as the political space and hardly calculable.
  • Focusing on predictability rather than leaving space for understanding which is precondition for politics;
  • Instead of providing substantive understanding of reality, intends to create another reality and leads scholars and practitioners on how to come to certain outcome;
  • Completely missing out the aspect of zoe politikon instead focusing only on biological life and needs, and avoiding the fact that we are political beings who act and express opinions in the political community, which is not necessarily equal to state.

“Human Freedom and the Capacity for New Beginnings in Dark Times” – Short Critique of Human Rights, Sustainability and Technology interplay Through Hannah Arendt’s Work

Abstract Submitted 

University of Lapland, Finalnd – Research Colloquium on Peaceful Coexistence,

Reimagining Ethics and Politics of Space for the Anthropocene

June 6-9, 2017, Pyhä, Finnish Lapland

Кeywords: human rights; sustainable Agenda; technology; anthropocene; Hannah Arendt; plurality

The distinction between antropocene and capitalocene is not very clear, and therefore the question of difference or overlapping of what is understood by human and fuel fossil men not obvious. Nonetheless, the responsibility for the destruction related to capitalocene cannot be only subscribed to machine or fuel fossil men. Therefore, Donna Harraway demands that we contemplate on the crucial question: “whether we are all Eichmann’s?” in today context is definitely something worth examining. In that direction, the essay through the Hannah Arendt who had an anthropocentric approach, attempts to look at the interaction on one hand of her political theory based on plurality and on the other human rights and technology by criticizing in same time 2030 Sustainable Agenda as meaningless and semantically empty document.  The essay will look at “human condition” as elaborated by Arendt, as oppose to “human nature” . The difference is that the former is artificial and unpredictable condition, where spontaneity operates providing in same time possibilities for freedom and new beginnings.

I will claim that the interplay of human rights and technology as included in the 2030 Sustainable Agenda is a hybrid that might be united under the term “Athropocene”. However, neither term used jointly or separately is helpful for understanding the meaning of human rights or technology in 21st century, and even less to make the 2030 Sustainable Agenda effective and workable plan.

By using Arendt’s lenses I will look at both UN Sustainable Agenda 2030 along with the contemporary human rights, and its interaction with technology. Both refer unfortunately to abstract ‘human beings who seem to exist nowhere’ as Arendt deemed in her critique related to human rights.  Pursuant to her there is only one valid right and that is “right to have rights “or belonging to political community (plurality). Plurality is comprised of people who act and speak or express opinions on public matters in the public space. Thus, in today context technology should be inspected along these lines and should be considered as a “political” question as well. Sustainable Agenda unfortunately does not provide technology with such a meaning and is not used to empower people through using of technology but is a uniform technical term that does not take into account the various levels of developments and traditions.

Action as the oldest form of political action is intrinsically related to “natality” – new beginnings or freedom to act and speak in political community, and offers consequently ontological foundation to human rights.

The other part of Arendt’s work or vita contemplativa of thinking and judging will be also employed to inspect what means to be able to think what we are doing, and thus able to live with oneself pursuant to those actions. In addition, she is relevant in today’s context of increasing technological development to examine how technology is contingent for our thinking and/or non-thinking and thus reinforcing “banality of evil” Harraway referring to Arendt invites us to examine.



Time, Memory and Reconciliation – Judging in Hannah Arendt

Human Dignity as Core of Human Rights through Hannah Arendt ouevre

Hannah Arendt’s “Prophecy” on Rightlessness and current situation of the Syrian Refuges at the Macedonian Border

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