From Academic Kids

A non-person is a person or a member of a group who lacks, loses, or is forcibly denied social or legal status, especially basic human rights.

Note; asserting that someone is a nonperson is implicitly a normative statement; because by doing so it also is implied simultaneously that the person referred to is entitled to the rights any person should have. Who is a person and what every person is entitled to depends on context and social norms. For example, wards that are under the authority of a legal guardian due to infancy, incapacity or disability are usually not held to be nonpersons.



There are many possible meanings associated with the term "nonperson," some more dramatic than others.

Prison Camps

One example are the Nazi extermination camps, in which the Jewish prisoners were treated as "non persons." Since the purpose of these camps was to anonymize, use and dispose of the "unwanted elements" in the most "efficient" way possible "Non-person" status was required because it easily removes the moral and social obstacles for committing questionable acts of violence, crime and abuse.

"Third World" Countries

It can be argued that many people born (and deceased) in some "Third World" countries have never had their birth or death registered by any official (state or other) institution and thus those people were never accounted for anywhere, which is almost equivalent to non-existence and thus it would be very difficult to grant them what would be considered as basic human rights, human dignity etc.

Industrialized Countries

Though rare, there are examples of "non-persons" even in industrialized countries. In general, a person not showing up on any official documents, nor economically or socially active or living outside of what is defined the "productive system" or "organized society" could be classifed as a non-person, as it would be very hard or even impossible for that person to claim any political, legal or constitutional rights (as well as being apparently unbound by any legal duties or obligations). This is often the case of homeless and marginal people in general such as "hobos", "tramps" etc.

Also, some legally detained prisoners can be considered to be in a quasi non-person status, temporarily or indefinitely, to different extents depending on the reasons and conditions of detention. For example, in most countries ordinary prisoners are denied any political rights like voting while in the most severe cases total or partial isolation from the outside world can be inflicted.


The "non person" status can also be consciously or unconsciously applied to unwanted persons (demonizing them) by their surrounding society. Such can be the case of a state versus homeless or marginal people or it can be extended and applied versus an entire nation or ethnic group, as it often happens in wars or other conflicts. This was the case for example of the Nazi state versus the Jews or of most societies versus the Gypsies, but it is often applied in times of war versus the enemy nation, by stripping its people of their "person status" and demonizing them, making them appear like monsters (not humans) and thus indirectly justifying any excess or abuse committed against them.

It can be argued that the "non-person" status, apart from the Nazi camps, can be found in its most literal form when considering certain prisoners of war, especially if they are or are considered to be illegal combatants. An example of that could be the Guantanamo bay prison where several people from all over the world are supposedly held without precise charges against them, are denied any form of access to the outside world (and vice-versa) and are in an unclear/controversial legal status, apart from partial or total anonymity.

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