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Early Conceptualizations Of Honor

For these early scholars, honor was a brittle value—one that could not be rescued if harmed. They emphasized honor as a framework for social hierarchy and as an attribute that people were both born with (status) and attained or retained through proper behavior (virtue). More recently Frank Henderson Stewart has criticized this way of formulating honor. In his model, honor retains its dual characteristic of having both inner and outer manifestations, but more emphasis is placed on the interconnection between the two. Key to this argument is the notion that honor must be conceived as a right—the inherent right to be treated with respect. As such, the bipartite aspect of honor—as conceived by most scholars—becomes linked to inner values and outer respect.

Another way of approaching honor in a somewhat dualistic manner is to emphasize its inverse quality, that of shame. For instance, Ramón Gutiérrez's influential study of gender and sexuality in colonial New Mexico depends heavily on this model. Although honor represents the ability to hold one's head up high in public, there is a strong element of shame that feeds the system. The conduct that must be observed and respected in order to be respectable is reinforced because of sentiments of shame. Women, in particular, were expected to mediate their behavior based on their sense of shame. This could be translated into their body movements and contacts outside of the home and the ways in which they covered their bodies outside the walls of their house.

Much of this notion of honor comes from historical studies of the Mediterranean region but also from literary sources. In particular, plays of Golden Age Spain, as well as other nations, presented honor dramas in which the battle over honor was marked by seductions, betrayals, and many battles over reputation. Some scholars found these representations of honor quite persuasive and made an extrapolation from these literary sources to the societies that they were studying. More recent scholarship has been highly critical of such attitudes, citing the lack of any link between the types of behavior presented on stage and page and that found in the more mundane documents produced by individuals. These authors have pointed out that many of the groups not covered within the literary codes of honor actually viewed themselves as possessors of honor, and that, in contrast to literary representations of honor, there are many historical examples of lost honor being reparable.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Heterodyne to Hydrazoic acidHonor - Early Conceptualizations Of Honor, Public Expressions Of Honor, Honor And Gender, Honor And Violence