Kenan Graduate Fellows
Sarah Jean Barton
Sarah Jean Barton is a fourth year Doctor of Theology candidate at the Divinity School as well as a practicing pediatric occupational therapist at Duke University Health System. Her research probes the intersection of theology and disability. Specifically, her doctoral work explores participation in Christian sacramental practices and this participation’s relationship to theological anthropologies robustly inclusive of persons with intellectual disability. Her work is informed by participatory qualitative research with individuals with intellectual disabilities as well as engagement with the fields of disability studies and occupational therapy. Sarah’s clinical specialties include working with medically fragile children, children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities, and children and adolescents with muscular dystrophies. Sarah holds an M.T.S. from Duke Divinity School and an M.S. in Occupational Therapy from Boston University.
While economic inequality continues to separate the few “haves” from the many “have-nots,” those at the bottom of the social strata are in increasing tension with one another. Race has proven particularly divisive, with the issue of “illegal immigration” appearing particularly thorny. By interrogating key questions surrounding “illegal immigration,” my dissertation explores the ways in which race and ethnicity have mediated (indeed, sometimes exacerbated) larger questions about class, citizenship, and belonging. My dissertation will also attempt to make sense of how cultural divisions and affinities are made and unmade and how social attitudes are formed and deformed. It will do so by assessing and explaining how various historical factions—Americans and non-Americans, as well as elite and non-elite actors, often in contest with one another—have endured, and how they have all shaped debates, public policy, and our current political moment. In analyzing the actions, beliefs, and tactics of the central actors in my dissertation—policymakers, civil and human rights leaders, labor unions, business interests, nativists, and immigrants themselves—my work will tackle difficult empirical and normative debates, including those about the precise number of undocumented immigrants in the country at various times; the tangible and quantitative economic costs and benefits of (unsanctioned) immigration; and the causal effects of various immigration policies, laws, and practices on immigration trends. Perhaps trickier, but no less important, are the normative debates it will attempt to clarify: who benefits from immigration and who is harmed? What responsibilities do governments have to immigrant and to their citizens? And how does immigration complicate debates about the role of the state in public life, from regulating borders to providing safety nets?
Hannah Bondurant is a 5th year PhD student in Philosophy. My work centers on how we come to know ourselves from the feedback others give us. Evaluating feedback from others is important for accurate self-knowledge but one’s abilities are limited by various biases such as only valuing feedback from others similar to oneself. I offer one potential solution by arguing that we should seek experiences with people from different cultures or social groups. However, feedback is not only informative but also transformative regarding oneself in that one can start to conform to the information another person gives them. I address the problem of information that is itself transformative to bring awareness to issues such as misinformation being used to oppress members of certain social groups. By focusing on current research regarding agency and transformative experiences, I hope to further the debates surrounding implicit biases and stereotype threat.
Emma Davenport is a fourth-year PhD student in the English Department. She specializes in the nineteenth-century British novel and legal theory. Her research posits that the same fiction of individual, autonomous consent that underwrites modern contract theory and finds frequent expression in contemporary law is most powerfully contested though literary discourse that challenges the presumption of human agency. Her interest in Victorian literature is rooted in its inclination towards a situational understanding of human behavior that, in its most compelling forms, challenges conventional conceptions of rationally willed action.
Joshua Doyle is a PhD candidate in the sociology department. Before attending Duke, he received a BA in sociology from Indiana University. His primary interests in sociology are in culture, quantitative methods, and environmental problems. More specifically, his dissertation examines how individuals’ expectations for whether or not others in their society will act altruistically influences their own pro-social behaviors.
Jae Yun Kim
Jae Yun Kim studies how popular ideas of self-help/self-improvement shape perceptions of inequality, fairness, and legitimacy. The ideas include women’s empowerment messages, advice to pursue one’s passion, and the beliefs in the power of thinking. I examine how these ideas might have unintended consequences, such as victim-blaming, legitimization of labor exploitation, and justification of inequalities.
Anyi Ma is a fourth year PhD candidate in the Management department at Fuqua School of Business. She is interested in the broad concept of agency in organizations. Her overriding questions are: How do agentic experiences (i.e., being in control, having choices) influence individual outcomes in organizations? How are agentic individuals (e.g., leaders) perceived at the workplace? Why are some groups of people (e.g., women) disliked when they act in agentic ways?
Emily Pechar is a fifth-year PhD candidate in the Environmental Policy program. She specializes in the politics of environmental issues in the U.S. and internationally, with a particular focus on public opinion of climate change. Emily’s research explores what causes particular issues to become highly politically polarized, and how to reduce extreme polarization in order to develop and pass important policies. In her dissertation, she looks specifically at the role that identities and framing play in driving attitudes on climate change and support for climate change policies. From a normative perspective, she is also interested in the role that science should have in guiding public opinion on highly technical issues, and how and why individuals accept or reject scientific information.
Christine Ryan is a third year SJD student at Duke Law. Her dissertation proposes a feminist human rights based approach to abortion law and politics. Christine is exploring how feminist methods and insights can transform human rights law and practice on abortion and she explores this using an in depth case study of abortion law and politics in Ireland. Christine is a Fulbright scholar and PEO International Peace Scholar at Duke. Prior to Duke, Christine worked as a human rights officer with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade. She continues to work as a human rights consultant to Irish Aid and provides technical expertise on how the state can apply a human rights based approach in international development policy and practice. Christine completed an LLM (with distinction) at University College London and a LLB (first class honors) at University College Cork, Ireland.
Bailey Sanders is a PhD candidate in Political Science. She received a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Alabama and a M.A. in Political Science from the University of Georgia. Her work focuses on political representation, with a particular focus on the politics of gender and race. In her most recent project she argues that the legal regulation of assisted reproductive technologies – surrogacy in particular – is shaped to a large extent by traditional sex-role stereotypes portraying women as caregivers and men as disinterested fathers. She argues that a majority of states possess a framework that both violates equal protection principles and undermines women’s ability to engage in the reproductive market to the same extent that men do.
Valerie Soon is a third-year PhD student in the Philosophy department, working at the intersection of philosophy of social science and political philosophy. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Economics from Wellesley College and an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Houston. Her research concerns the relationship between individuals and unjust social structures. She is particularly interested in the social norms and practices that create and perpetuate social inequality and/or injustice, and its implications for methods of intervention in the public sphere. Some of the questions she is interested in include: which social norms and practices belong in a just society, and what is the role of the liberal state in shaping norms and practices in the direction of justice? What means of intervention, if any—such as psychological framing, propaganda, uses of the law to shape preferences, or civic education—are morally permissible for the liberal state to employ in changing these norms and practices?
Jacob Soule is a fifth-year doctoral student in Duke’s Program in Literature. Before coming to the States, I completed undergraduate and master’s degrees at the Universities of York and Cambridge in the UK. I am currently working on a dissertation entitled “Contemporary Fiction and Urban Crisis”. My dissertation asks whether contemporary novels are capable of representing the structural inequalities and social crises produced by advanced capitalism. How would novelists need to update the generic and formal properties of the novel as a literary mode in order to do so? Literary critics are divided over whether the representational apparatus of the novel—once credited by theorists such as Benedict Anderson as central to producing “imagined communities” on a national scale—is capable of reproducing this effect in the face of rapid globalization, and the increased dominance of finance as an organizer of social relations. My dissertation considers these questions in the context of urban crises (gentrification, the waning of public space, infrastructural decline) in contemporary Anglophone fiction. What kinds of community can the novel imagine in these urban (rather than national) contexts? The urban theorist Henri Lefebvre once asserted the “Right to the City” as a human right among others. I argue that this ethical question must be transferred to the domain of literary criticism.
Jan Vogler is a Ph.D. candidate with a specialization in comparative political economy and political methods. His research is concerned with political competition and the organization of public bureaucracies. In his dissertation, he analyzes the historical determinants of bureaucratic characteristics. He primarily explores the role social groups played in shaping early bureaucratic systems and imperial legacies in public administration. Prior to his doctoral studies, he studied political science, economics, and international relations at Free University of Berlin, the University of California, Berkeley, and the London School of Economics and Political Science. There are multiple normative questions and debates that his research touches upon. One of them is the extent to which public bureaucracies should be dependent on or independent from political actors. The related controversy reveals theoretical and practical tensions between democratic political control and the expected non-partisanship of public administrations. Another one is to which extent we should perceive history as a guide for acting in and understanding the present, which is a contentious issue both among academics and in the general public discourse.
Laurel Wheeler is a PhD candidate in the Department of Economics at Duke. Her research agenda seeks to understand the factors that contribute to the economic distress of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, focusing in particular on American Indians/Alaskan Natives. She is currently studying the role of land ownership in economic development on Indian reservations with a view toward contributing to conversations around tribal sovereignty, the preservation of land and culture, and economic development. Prior to Duke, she was awarded an MSc in economics for development from the University of Oxford and a BA in political science from the University of Florida.
Emma Xiaolu Zang
Emma Xiaolu Zang is a fourth-year PhD student in Public Policy. Emma’s research focuses on family and retirement policies in China. Her dissertation examines the impact of the 2011 Chinese divorce law change on women’s welfare. Her research shows how a seemingly gender-neutral policy could generate negative consequences for women in a certain social context. Emma holds a BA in Sociology from Tongji University, an Mphil in Social Science from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and an MA in Economics from Duke University.