A Synthesized Approach: Thinking and Dancing!

By Rachel Revelle

RaziaDoes this look like your typical Monday night? I’m a music lover and am at shows quite often, but it was a welcome surprise to jam out the way I did last night. Especially because I was helping facilitate a conference on deforestation in Madagascar co-hosted by the Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Duke Lemur Center. A quick look at the conference schedule shows that we had a full day of engagement. But throw in some creative planning and Malagasy musician Razia Said, and you get the perfect way to conclude a conference and liven up a Monday night.

The symposium was organized by the Duke Human Rights Center at KIE, and the Duke Lemur Center, and was one of the first major events with funding from the Duke Africa Initiative. Lou Brown’s FOCUS class used Madagascar as a case study for examining globalization and corporate social responsibility from an anthropological perspective, and contributed extensively to the planning for the event. Researchers and practitioners in fields from conservation ecology to economics to law were brought together as speakers for the panels. Because of these various angles by which the issue of deforestation was approached, the experts that were involved as well as conference attendees such as graduate students in related fields could gain from the synthesis of ideas that took place. For some, that meant grappling with challenges to their beliefs. The importance of lemurs and biodiversity was explicitly juxtaposed with the importance of maintaining livelihood and dignity for the human inhabitants of Madagascar, which made for a more complicated, richer discussion. It was a truly multilateral approach to education and research sharing.

I think one of the things Kenan does best is act as a moderator and synthesizer for engagement in diverse fields. We try to take an idea, involve multiple partners with multiple viewpoints, and broaden the perspectives of all involved.

And if your inclination is that an academic conference at Duke must be a stiff crowd, then we can broaden your perspective on that as well! The spirit of camaraderie from the day followed the crowd into Duke Coffeehouse, where Razia and her band gave us inspiration and a call to action. In another iteration of our “think and do” model, Monday’s Madagascar conference illustrated that sometimes a healthy process may be to think and dance!