One of the epigraphs to Elizabeth Anker's provocative study signals clearly the book's intent to unmoor us from any complacency in regard to dignity, a concept that seems almost impervious to critique. The epigraph, from J. M. Coetzee's Giving Offense, sets up a causal chain only to undermine it by bringing to question the foundations of our idea of dignity:

The fiction of dignity helps to define humanity and the status of humanity helps to define human rights. There is thus a real sense in which an affront to our dignity strikes at our rights. Yet when, outraged at such affront, we stand on our rights and demand redress, we would do well to remember how insubstantial the dignity is on which those rights are based. (14)

Reading Coetzee, one is compelled to look again at the preamble to the 1948...

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