Sep 202017
 September 20, 2017

With seven engagements across two days at Duke, Kenan Institute for Ethics’ Practitioner-in-Residence Cass Sunstein presented to hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members this week. He visited campus in collaboration with the Rethinking Regulation Program at Kenan and Duke Law School.

Sunstein, Harvard’s Robert Walmsley University Professor and founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School, shared a breadth of his regulatory expertise on a range of topics, from moral commitments in cost-benefit analysis to political division, food labeling and the process of impeachment. In addition to his work at Harvard, Sunstein previously acted as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama Administration.

During talks at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, Sunstein used topics of climate change and how people hold political beliefs to illustrate shifting ethical challenges in America. It can be hard to change minds, he said, because of how people can strongly hold to personal beliefs.

“Not liking something,” he noted, “pre-determines not believing.”

Sep 152017
 September 15, 2017

As part of a weeklong, campus-wide effort to highlight the many resources, benefits and services Duke offers its campus community, senior Snehan Sharma is one of five special profiles for the Duke Healthy Campus Initiative.

Sharma, who is featured as a representative for a day focused on fulfillment and purpose, noted his involvement in the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ Purpose Program, MASTERY, Citizenship Lab and more as experiences that shaped his college experience.

“After my experience working with refugees, it became clear that whatever career path I chose, I’d like to have more social benefit tied in than personal benefit,” he said.

For more about how Sharma’s time with Kenan has shaped his life, read his story, “Finding Fulfillment Through Meaningful Work.”

Sep 142017
 September 14, 2017

In a new episode of WNCU’s “The Measures of Everyday Life,” Kieran Healy, associate professor in sociology and the Kenan Institute for Ethics, shares insight into his research on nuance, performativity and ethics.

The weekly public radio show highlights researchers, practitioners, and professionals discussing their work to improve the human condition.

Among his recent work, Healy co-authored two papers with Kimberly Krawiec, a Senior Fellow at Kenan and the Katherine Everett Professor of Law at Duke’s School of Law. Those works focused on moral repugnance in markets and innovation and changes in organ transplantation. This spring, Healy examined the impact social media has had on public sociology and shifting acceptance of nuance in Sociological Theory.

Stream or download the episode:

Sep 052017
 September 5, 2017

The Kenan Institute for Ethics hosted award-winning journalist and novelist Ben Ehrenreich Sept. 4, who spoke to a crowd of students, faculty, staff and community members to share insight on the ethics of telling stories in contested terrain.

Ehrenreich, who has written for New York Times Magazine, London Review of Books, Harper’s Magazine and more, reflected on his reporting for his most recent book, “The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine,” and read selections to the audience. In his reporting for the book, Ehrenreich traveled to and lived in the West Bank, staying with Palestinian families in its largest cities and its smallest villages.

“As humans, all we have useable to us is highly contested terrain,” he said. “There is no other kind.”

Throughout his time there, Ehrenreich said he worked to find stories to highlight aspects of truth and humanity, and found the idea of contested terrain in Israel and Palestine as a theme that can be seen all over the world, accented by centuries of fighting and disagreement, from displacement of Native Americans to wars of Europe.

“When we talk about contested terrain, we’re also of course talking about histories,” he said. “Histories that remain alive in us, that shape our choices, our perceptions, our possibilities, our visions for the future.”

Aug 292017
 August 29, 2017

Time, Tide and Turtles - Alternative Spring BreakThe Kenan Institute for Ethics invites applications for an intensive three-day Alternative Fall Break program on the collision between culture, food systems, development, industry and conservation, through the lens of a small community coping with the changing tide.

In cooperation with the the NOAA Beaufort Lab, the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center, Duke University Marine Lab and Duke Campus Farm, the Alternative Fall Break program will run from Saturday morning, October 6th through Monday afternoon, October 9th.

The group will travel to Harker’s Island, NC, to explore how a local fishing community (where turtle stew was once a local staple but is now illegal, to make) experiences complex politics surrounding food systems, cultural preservation, environmental conservation and coastal development. Participants will meet Harkers Island community members, marine scientists, members of the commercial fishing industry, and some folks back in the Triangle who work at the intersection of food systems and eating ethics. Participants will come away from break better able to map some significant pieces and moral puzzles contained in North Carolina’s foodways, particularly surrounding its fishing-based food economy. We’ll enjoy plenty of tastes, smells, and sights along the journey.

During the trip students will keep a journal documenting their questions, concerns, and experiences. These journals will form the basis of a physical and electronic response, created upon return to Duke.

Participation in the program is open to all currently-enrolled Duke undergraduate students, as we explore these topics from a wide-variety of disciplines and backgrounds. The Kenan Institute for Ethics will cover lodging, board, meals and transportation.

Please note: participants will be in close proximity to shellfish and other seafood and marine life throughout this trip.

Contact Dan Smith ( ) with questions and concerns.

Application deadline: September 12, 2017. Application form:

Aug 282017
 August 28, 2017

Libia Posada’s art exhibit in Duke’s Friedl Building will remain on display until Sept. 20.

With support provided by the Katz Family Women, Ethics and Leadership Fund, the Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Global Health Institute, and the Artist Studio Project will host Dr. Libia Posada Aug. 31 to Sept. 16. Posada, a Katz Family Fellow, will spend her time on campus and in Durham leading workshops and presentations with students, faculty and community members that deal with migration and trauma, and how she connects art and medicine.

Posada will also showcase an art installation, “BE PATIENT | SE PACIENTE,” comprised of materials collected from Duke’s Medical Surplus Warehouse and Posada’s own work. The installation can be viewed from Aug. 28 through Sept. 20 at the Fredric Jameson Gallery in the Friedl Building on East Campus.

Programming and events during Posada’s stay include:

Sept. 1 to 6

Posada will collaborate with local non-profit El Centro Hispano, which advocates for equity and inclusion for Hispanics/Latinos in the Triangle. She will develop a focus-group workshop on migration, body and geography based on her 2008 artwork “Cardinal Signs (Body Maps),” which mapped the journey of forced displayed Colombians who fled war in their country with ink drawings on their legs. In Durham, Posada will work with a group of Central American migrants to share their stories of coming to the U.S. and detail the process physically by drawing maps of their travel on their bodies as a way to represent the physical toll of the experience.

Sept. 11 to 14

At Duke, Posada will visit classes to present to students, faculty and staff on her work dealing with partner violence and sexual violence. The visits are in coordination with the, Duke Global Health Institute, and Social Practice Lab. Posada will lead short workshop discussions on the topics from a medical, cultural, and social perspective, noting the phenomenon of infectious disease, violence, and trauma. Participants will produce text and image-based art based on the discussions.

Sept. 15 and 16

Posada will participate in the Franklin Humanities Institute’s Health Humanities Conference, “Breath, Body, Voice.” She will co-lead a workshop on her unique medical/artistic practice that links research, action, and creation with communities in Colombia and Durham. Her art exhibit and reception will be held 6 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Fredric Jameson Gallery at 115 Friedl Building on Duke’s East Campus.

Learn more about Libia Posada in this video:

Aug 282017
 August 28, 2017

The Global Human Rights Scholars Program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics is accepting applications from undergraduates interested in human rights issues to join the second year of the Institute’s “Rights Writers” team, where participants use a shared blog platform to explore in-depth and thoughtful analysis across a range of diverse human rights issues, shaping discussions at Duke and beyond

The project provides a public space for students to offer their insight as well as develop analytical and writing skills, particularly with regards to writing for a general public. Global Scholars blog on a monthly basis about a human rights topic of their choice (see application for more information), read and comment on one another’s draft posts, and meet regularly to discuss. In addition, the Scholars program offers students an opportunity to engage with the work of the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and its network of scholars and practitioners.

Students who enjoy writing, would like more public exposure for their writing, and who are interested in tracing developments of their chosen topic over the course of a year are especially encouraged to apply. A collection of work from the 2016-2017 Scholars can be found on the Kenan Insitute’s website.

Opportunities and responsibilities for the 2017-2018 Kenan Global Human Rights Scholars include:

  • Scholars will receive an $850 honorarium in support of their participation in the program.
  • Scholars will blog! Each month during the school year (total 8 blogs) scholars will respond to a prompt about their given topic, as well as provide comments on the draft blog of one other scholar in the group. Blogs will be between 500-800 words;
  • Scholars will attend mandatory meetings twice a month to discuss their writing, their own, broadly defined, global human rights interests as well as current events;
  • Scholars will help facilitate the annual Student Research Symposium in April
  • The Program will include invitations to attend events and meet with human rights scholars and activists visiting the Kenan Institute for Ethics; 

Download the application form: PDF or Word doc. Completed applications should be sent to Suzanne Katzenstein ( by noon Sept. 25. Please put “Global Scholars Application” in the subject line.

Admission is selective: five to six students will be chosen for 2017-2018. Candidates may be asked for an interview and applicants will be notified of their admission decision around Oct. 9. 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 252017
 August 25, 2017

Credit Donn Young / Duke University

On August 25, Jedediah Purdy and Norman Wirzba appeared on WUNC’s The State of Things to talk about their new project, Facing the Anthropocene, funded by the Luce Foundation and housed at the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

The Anthropocene names the idea that humans are now the main force driving the future of the planet. Humans have changed the makeup of the atmosphere and remade the surface of the earth. Purdy and Wirzba are coordinating with scholars from different fields, both senior academics and graduate students, to discuss how academia and its respective fields must rethink basic questions and assumptions in order to respond this reality.

Frank Stasio, Wirzba, and Purdy discussed how theology, law, philosophy, and technology can help us address environmental crises, but also ways in which each discipline has fallen short or failed to do so in the past. Purdy argued that all law is now environmental law; we must develop vocabularies and institutions that make us responsible not only to other humans but also to other creatures. Wirzba spoke of the importance of rehabilitating a language of the sacred and the urgent need for humans to reflect on who we are and makes for a good human life.

Listen to the interview on WUNC’s website.

On September 27th, Facing the Anthropocene will present its first biannual Luce Lecture, Climate Crisis/Climate Hope: A Conversation with Bill McKibben, at 5 p.m. in Goodson Chapel on Duke’s West Campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Aug 222017
 August 22, 2017

Richard Phillips displays a plaque awarded to him following his commissioning ceremony with Duke’s AROTC program. It was presented to him by Maj. Rachelle Macon, professor of military science, left, and his father, Don.

In his four years at Duke, Richard Phillips found a love for issues of justice and compassion, deepened by his experiences at the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

Through coursework as part of receiving an Ethics Certificate, traveling to the Arizona/Mexico border for the Institute’s 2016 Alternative Spring Break and interacting with Kenan’s faculty and staff as a research assistant, Phillips gained experience that fed a commitment to a calling of service. That work recently culminated for Phillips when he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army after completing Duke’s AROTC program.

“I’m so glad that Kenan and Duke gave me the desire to see perspective in the world and understand people and their truth,” said Phillips, who graduated this summer. “When you’re in the Army, you’re fighting evil, but you can’t paint the other people you might face with easy-to-understand labels. There are people in the world with dreams the same as me, and that is a crucial and harrowing reality to come to terms with.”

Phillips said his involvement in ethics-focused classes fed his interest in eclectic learning and personal experiences that included studying international law, migration and the history of oppression in the United States. It all connected to his core beliefs as a Christian and someone who sees value in trying to understand the stories and ideas of individuals in order to ultimately understand what is right and wrong for all people.

Following research this fall in which he’ll study aspects of migration and displacement in Texas, Phillips plans to attend law school with the end goal of entering into his military service as an Army lawyer.

Learn more about Richard and his story in this Profiles in Purpose.

Aug 152017
 August 15, 2017

In a new report that builds on a publicly-available database of transnational, standard-setting initiatives regulating corporate conduct, research from the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and MSI Integrity suggests voluntary initiatives that connect governments, NGOs, and private companies may not have the institutional elements required to effectively enforce their own standards related to responsible conduct, including respect for human rights.

These multi-stakeholder initiatives, also known as MSIs, aim to improve company or government compliance with a voluntary set of standards for responsible conduct, which can include human rights, environmental, and anti-corruption norms. These standards often outline company or government responsibilities to respect the rights of an identifiable stakeholder group, such as workers, farmers, or communities living in an area affected by business operations.

However, an analysis by the Duke Human Rights Center and MSI Integrity shows that only 14 percent of organizations surveyed for the new database involve any members of the populations they are intended to benefit or protect in their decision-making bodies. Additionally, only half the MSIs involve affected communities in any activities at all. The ramifications of this means that, in the process of attempting to improve corporate conduct, people with the most at stake often end up being the most marginalized.

“Before we conducted this study, many scholars assumed that all these MSIs look good on paper and the real question concerns what they are doing in practice,” said Suzanne Katzenstein, Research Scholar and Project Director at the Duke Human Rights Center. “But even on paper, there’s reason to be troubled.”

Part of the problem, Katzenstein noted, is a lack of transparency. Although 78 percent of MSIs have some form of sanctioning provision to hold members accountable if they don’t live up to standards, it’s difficult to know when the use of sanctions is warranted. This is because one in four MSIs does not require documentation of its evaluations. Of MSIs that do document corporate compliance, 63 percent do not make their evaluations publicly available, making it difficult for external actors to assess if an initiative has used its sanctioning mechanism sufficiently or appropriately.

Although the premise of many MSIs is to facilitate meaningful and relatively equal participation by different types of stakeholders to address a particular issue, 40 percent of MSIs in the database had highly imbalanced representation of stakeholder groups – meaning that one stakeholder group outnumbered any other in the initiative’s highest decision-making body by a ratio of two-to-one or greater. In these instances, governments, private companies or NGOs that have more representation in the initiative’s decision-making body may overpower the voices of other groups and guide the initiative’s agenda towards a particular group’s interests. In three MSIs, industry representatives outnumbered other stakeholders on the initiative’s highest decision-making body by a ratio of four-to-one: ICTI Care Process, Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification, and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

“The innovation of MSIs is that they bring together a diverse set of actors to hold companies and sometimes governments accountable,” Katzenstein said. “But when they’re dominated by one kind of stakeholder, outcomes can become skewed. Although both practitioners and academics have pointed to the need to fine-tune MSIs, this research suggests there is a need to re-think more seriously how to engage and improve MSIs.”

Data used in the report was collected by a Kenan service-learning class, Business and Human Rights Advocacy Lab, in the spring of 2015 and 2016. The 2015 class worked on piloting the research methodology and the 2016 class implemented the final methodology to collect the data. Students also conducted short case studies on the MSIs they researched.

Visit the MSI Database to see the full report. MSIs in the database engage with over 50 national governments and regulate over 9,000 companies – including Fortune Global 500 businesses with combined annual revenues of more than $5.4 trillion dollars.