Aug 272015
 August 27, 2015

Language-of-Genocide-Summary-1In 2014-2015, inspired by Genocide Convention author Raphael Lemkin’s connections to Duke, an interdisciplinary group of faculty and students formed a research team supported by the Silver Family Kenan Institute for Ethics Fund in Support of Bass Connections and by Humanities Writ Large. The group met regularly to examine various facets of the language of ‘genocide,’ focusing on a range arenas, including current government practices, legal uses in international courtrooms, representations in film, and its multiple meanings through psychological studies.

As a capstone to the year, on April 16, 2015 group participants hosted a day-long interdisciplinary workshop at the Kenan Institute for Ethics to explore the use of genocide terminology across the twentieth century. A summary of the workshop has been published, written by Savannah Wooten (UNC-Duke, class of 2017) and Matthew King (Duke, class 2018).

Aug 272015
 August 27, 2015

Global-HR-ScholarsThe Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics is offering a new opportunity for undergraduate students to engage with the work of the DHRC at KIE and its network of scholars and practitioners. Too often, human rights activism and scholarship are kept separate. The Kenan Global Human Rights Scholars initiative is devoted to exploring what the connections are between the two, as well as what they can and should be. Students with global travel experience (eg. DukeEngage), international interests, and who enjoy writing/editing are especially encouraged to apply.

Opportunities and responsibilities for the 2015-2016 Kenan Global Human Rights Scholars include:

  • Scholars will receive up to $500 in support of their original research on a human rights related topic;
  • Scholars will attend weekly meetings to discuss their own, broadly defined, global human rights interests as well as current events;
  • Scholars will participate in one collective dinner per semester with a human rights professor to discuss their research and views about the connection between scholarship and activism;
  • The Initiative will include invitations to attend events and meet with human rights scholars and activists visiting the Kenan Institute for Ethics;
  • Scholars will create a fall event or publication, and organize the annual spring student research forum.

Download the application form: PDF or Word doc. Completed applications should be sent to Daniel Baroff ( until Wednesday, September 16th at 11:59 pm.

Admission is selective; approximately 8-10 students will chosen for 2015-2016. Some candidates will be asked in for an interview; applicants will be notified of their admission decision around September 25th. Any further questions about the application process should be directed to Suzanne Katzenstein, Project Director of the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics (

Aug 182015
 August 18, 2015

OldCity-TempleBar-red-400In the summer of 2014, Bear Postgraduate Fellow in Ethics Michaela Dwyer returned to Ireland with the DukeEngage Dublin program, in which she had herself participated as a student three years prior. While there, she embarked on a project examining the role of creator and artist spaces open to a diverse community in Dublin. Her project was inspired by her earlier experience with The Exchange in Dublin, which by the time of her return visit had been ordered to suspend activities. She interviewed former volunteers with The Exchange as well as other figures who lead, support, or make use of communal artistic spaces in the city.

The final written piece connects the ongoing development of these spaces with changes in the Irish economy and immigration, as well as the nature of physical space in Dublin itself. Follow along with interactive maps that place you in the heart of Dublin as Dwyer leads you through time and space.

This is Dwyer’s final assignment as the Bear Postgraduate Fellow, and we are proud to welcome Cece Mercer as the Bear Fellow for 2015-2016.

Aug 132015
 August 13, 2015

Madlab-hatterThe MADLAB is a vertically-integrated, interdisciplinary laboratory, co-directed by Phil Costanzo (Psychology and Neuroscience) and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics), as part of the Moral Attitudes and Decision-Making program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and undergrads work together on collaborative research projects and meet regularly in their shared lab space here at the Institute to discuss their work. The work of the MADLAB is united by the broad theme of how social, cultural, neurological, and biological factors shape our moral attitudes, decisions, and judgments. Researchers work on the roles of attention and automatic processes, scrupulosity and psychopathy, objectivity and evolution, virtue and development, and toxoplasmosis.

View last year’s lab members or descriptions of the projects. Students interested in joining a research team should contact Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (

Aug 062015
 August 6, 2015

KIELogo-gray400The Kenan Institute for Ethics invites proposals for up to $20,000 for new, interdisciplinary scholarly projects in ethics broadly conceived. The CFP is open to projects with at least three regular rank faculty at Duke University, and aims to generate new confluences of collaborative faculty scholarship both in fields of long standing scholarly import and in emerging areas of ethical inquiry. Proposals grappling with any significant ethical or normative questions from any discipline are encouraged to apply. Theoretical and empirical and projects both welcome. Proposals might be for ongoing discussions, working groups, workshops, symposia or direct research expenses.  Proposals that have the greatest potential for the development of a new long-term scholarly research agenda and that include robust graduate student engagement will be prioritized.

For more information, see the CFP (pdf). Proposals must be submitted by September 30 and a faculty review committee will make decisions by October 15.

Aug 062015
 August 6, 2015

Group - shirtsOn August 10, The Kenan Institute for Ethics’ pre-orientation program Project Change will kick off its eighth year of introducing a diverse group of incoming freshman to the rich history and current social challenges of the city that will be their new home. Over the course of eight days, the students will take risks, make mistakes, and meet challenges as they work together and with local organizations that address pressing problems for Durham community members most in need, such as such as Genesis Home, Reinvestment Partners, and TROSA.

Check the Institute’s Facebook and Instagram accounts for photos and updates throughout the week.


Aug 042015
 August 4, 2015

The Kenan Institute for Ethics will select 6-10 graduate student applicants for the 2015-2016 Graduate Student Fellowships. Students from any Duke graduate program may apply. Ideal candidates will be in the 3rd or 4th year of their PhD studies: finished all (or almost all) of their coursework requirements, but still developing new ideas and approaches for their dissertation research. The Fellows receive an award of $3000 that supplements their current funding, and they meet the second Monday of every month over lunch in a seminar with fellow graduate students and faculty.

The only thing each cohort of Graduate Fellows has in common is that their dissertation research engages in interesting ways with significant normative issues. Some students – for example, from disciplines like philosophy, political theory, or theology – focus directly on fundamental ethical or political concepts and theories. Other fellows, from the sciences and social sciences, are trying to understand phenomena that are relevant to major, and often controversial, public policy debates. Still others are attempting to resolve debates in their areas of research that seem to be sustained by long-standing disagreements over both empirical claims and ethical or ideological commitments. Fellows are expected to be competent in either the empirical methods or normative theories of their home discipline.

The deadline to apply for the Graduate Fellowship at the Kenan Institute for Ethics for the 2015-2016 academic year is August 10, 2015. The recipients of the Fellowship will be notified by August 17, 2015. For further information, contact with “Graduate Fellowship question” in the subject heading.

Download the application (docx)

Jul 212015
 July 21, 2015

Durham-postcardThis summer, a group of rising juniors and seniors from Durham high schools will take part in The Bull City Dignity Project, a documentary theater project of the Kenan Institute for Ethics based on the lives of Durham’s diverse community members. Led by a team of Duke University students and faculty, the cast of Bull City Dignity will spend the summer turning interviews with Durham community members into a work of community storytelling. Heading up the project are Kari Barclay (director of Duke’s Me Too Monologues) and Lara Haft (slam poet and 2014 Kenan Summer Fellow).

Lara is writing periodic updates on the project, which discusses some of the themes from the interviews, as well as some of the issues they are exploring as a group, such as how to be authentic to another person’s voice, and how to present opinions against your own with respect and nuance:

We decided early on with our cast not to shy away from the points of tension in Durham’s history that can give insight into the city’s unique identity. Yet, there’s a fine line between examining these conflicts in a nuanced, thoughtful way, and using differences in opinion to manufacture cheap drama.

Jul 132015
 July 13, 2015

brainThe MADLAB, an interdisciplinary, vertically-integrated lab out of the Moral Attitudes and Decision-Making program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, received continued funding for its “Measuring Moral Implicit Attitudes” project. Project collaborators include Murali Doraiswamy (Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences), Tobias Egner (Psychology & Neuroscience), Scott Huettel (Psychology & Neuroscience), and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics). The Duke Institute for Brain Sciences offers yearly support to interdisciplinary teams through the Research Incubator Awards.

Read more about the awards and the other selected projects on the DIBS announcement.

Jul 092015
 July 9, 2015

dirk-philipsenKIE Senior Fellow Dirk Philipsen recently spoke at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in London on need to move away from reliance on GDP numbers as indicators of economic prosperity.

I have been teaching some version of the history of capitalism for a very long time. It’s a course that always raises some very difficult and profound questions, often questions that deal with deeply internalized assumptions, assumptions about basic things like human motivations or the workings of markets — to what extent do they guide our lives?

Audio of his talk is available on the RSA website.