Religions and Public Life at the Kenan Institute for Ethics seeks to engage faculty, students, and visiting scholars and practitioners on questions concerning the role of religious narratives and practices in the formation of the public sphere. This initiative is a collaboration among Duke Divinity School, Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, and the Kenan Institute for Ethics.
Religions and Public Life at the Kenan Institute for Ethics seeks to engage faculty, students, and visiting scholars and practitioners on questions concerning the role of religious narratives and practices in the formation of the public sphere. The initiative has a specific interest in the ways in which religious narratives and practices form and influence institutions at both the local and global level—from schools, hospitals, and grassroots NGOs in local communities, to the many institutions with global reach that seek to organize compassion for strangers into orchestrated efforts of relief and development. The initiative serves as an interdisciplinary platform that puts scholars, students, and practitioners in conversation with one another through collaborative research, innovative teaching, and community engagement, with the aim of exploring how the institutional expression of religious narratives and practices contributes both to the formation of moral lives, and to the public spheres in which those lives are lived. Current programs and projects fall within one of three thematic emphases:
Medicine and Meaning
Programs and projects in the area of medicine and meaning seek to explore the role of medical practice and medical discourse in forming our understanding of what it means to be human. Activities in this area include a second-year Bass Connections project on living kidney donation and exploration of music and storytelling in the medical context.
Storytelling and the Moral Life
Programs and projects in the area of storytelling and the moral life seek to explore all facets of human beings as storytelling animals. Why are we inescapably bound to storytelling? What role do stories play in our moral formation? Activities in this area include storytelling workshops and performances for both undergraduates and faculty, exploration of storytelling in political speechwriting, and a year-long interdisciplinary faculty working group on narrative.
Religious Practice and Civic Engagement
Programs and projects in this area explore the role religious practices and commitments play in civic engagement and the formation of the public sphere. Activities in this area include visits by two practioners: Mike Gerson, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, who will serve as a Kenan Practitioner in Residence.