Wall of Shame

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"Wall of Shame" is a phrase that has been applied to a wide range of uses.

The earliest use may have been by Ruth Benedict and other anthropologists discussing the honor shame culture of Japan, but the term has been applied to many things, including physical barriers such as the Berlin Wall, and collections of names or images posted on physical walls, in print, or on virtual walls for the purpose of shaming the individuals listed. In this sense the term is an inversion of a "wall of hope", "hall of fame" or an "honor roll". Another name for this use of "wall of shame" is "hall of shame".

Applied to Japanese culture[edit]

This phrase, a translation of a Japanese phrase, has been used by anthropologists including Ruth Benedict in her influential 1948 book, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, to discuss the shame-honor culture of Japan.[1]

Applied to the Berlin Wall[edit]

The term was used in reference to the Berlin Wall, which separated East Berlin from West Berlin. In 1961 the government of East Germany named the erected wall as the "Anti-fascist protection wall", a part of the inner German border; many Berliners, however, called it "Schandmauer" ("Wall of Shame"). Outside Germany it first appeared as "Wall of Shame" in a cover story published by Time Magazine in 1962,[2] and President of the United States John F. Kennedy used the term in his Annual Message to the US Congress on the State of the Union, January 14, 1963.[3]

The Berlin Wall was referred to as the "Wall of Shame" in many more recent notable works, such as:

Other uses[edit]

  • The Spanish fences in Ceuta and Melilla; by Christophe Nonnenmacher in "Europe&Us" the International News Service (Loyalist College, Canada) J. E. S. Fawcett in International Affairs[7][page needed]
  • In 1998, UNIFEM organized a photo exhibit at the United Nations that contrasted a "wall of shame," focusing on women's plight and suffering, with a "wall of hope" showcasing initiatives to end violence against women.[8]
  • An academic paper by M. Lachance (York University) talks about the Quebec "wall of shame".[9]
  • Peru's Wall of Shame, a ten-foot high wall separating San Juan de Miraflores and Surco outside Lima.[10][11]


  1. ^ Modell, Judith. "THE WALL OF SHAME: RUTH BENEDICT'S ACCOMPLISHMENT IN "THE CHRYSANTHEMUM AND THE SWORD"" Dialectical Anthropology 24, no. 2 (1999): 193-215. http://www.jstor.org/stable/29790601.
  2. ^ "CNN Cold War - First Draft: Title". Archived from the original on May 2, 2006. 
  3. ^ Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley (January 14, 1963). "John F. Kennedy: "Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union."". The American Presidency Project. The American Presidency Project. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Journal of Democracy 10.2 (1999) 105-112
  5. ^ http://www.fedtrust.co.uk/uploads/Essays/Essay_9.pdf
  6. ^ http://www.lex.unict.it/cde/documenti/vari/2002/021009prodiallarg_en.pdf
  7. ^ J. E. S. Fawcett: "Gibraltar: The Legal Issues" International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs), Vol. 43, No. 2 (Apr., 1967), pp. 236-251, mentioning Spain and British Gibraltar border as a "Wall of Shame" [1]
  8. ^ Spindel, Cheywa; Levy, Elisa; Connor, Melissa (2000). Judd, Karen, ed. With an End in Sight: Strategies from the UNIFEM Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence Against Women (PDF). The United Nations Development Fund for Women. ISBN 0-9679502-9-5. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  9. ^ M. Lachance (York University): "Geographies of protests: spatialities of social movements activities" (2003) [2]
  10. ^ Mervin, John (October 9, 2015). "In Peru water is a high price for Lima's poor". BBC. Retrieved October 21, 2016. At the very top of the hill, is the final insult that Lima adds to the injurious effects of poverty: a wall, ten feet high, garlanded with razor wire. [...] They call it the Wall of Shame. 
  11. ^ Robinson, Julian (December 22, 2015). "Peru's ten-foot high Wall Of Shame topped with razor wire which divides the rich and poor to stop the less well-off stealing from the wealthy". The Daily Mail. Retrieved October 21, 2016.