New Signature Course: Reimagining the World Together

Before COVID-19 and the tragic, senseless death of George Floyd, the future was uncertain: climate change, political polarization, a global refugee crisis, police brutality in America, the rise of authoritarianism, and inequities in health and wealth were putting the future in question. Nonetheless, many of us had the benefit of facing these challenges from a relatively stable present. We went to school and to work; some of us played sports, all of us were fans; we shook hands with strangers, hugged friends and family; we boarded airplanes, trains, and buses worried only whether our bags would fit. These things were routine. Now they aren’t.

And still, the previous challenges remain and, in many cases, have been put in stark relief. The pandemic threatens to fracture an already divided political landscape, and the aftermath of George Floyd’s death — perhaps more so than other Black women, men, and children whose lives ended far too soon — has exposed weaknesses and long-held injustices in almost all of our systems, not least, higher education. When the present itself is unstable and uncertain, how do we plan for the future? How do we get there from here?

Reimagining the World Together: Why Friendship Matters for Our Future is a course that seeks to answer that question through a series of moderated conversations between pairs of friends who will talk about their friendship and their work and bring their imaginations to bear on the future.

Confirmed guests will include:

  • William Barber and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
  • Jim Yong Kim and Marshall Goldsmith
  • Paul Farmer and Todd McCormack
  • Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods
  • Shane Battier and Ravi Gupta
  • Mike Merson and Kathleen Cravero
  • Sonia Shah and Anthony Arnove

The class will meet online on Thursdays from 5:15-7:30pm during fall semester. Students: register for ETHICS 387 — cross-listed as POLSCI 387, GLHLTH 387, SOCIOL 387, PUBPOL 385, and ICS 371

What Is Good Art? Call for proposals

The Kenan Institute for Ethics invites students from across Duke to submit artwork for What Is Good Art?–an exhibit on ethics and art, to be shown virtually.

The theme for the show is “Ethics in the Age of Coronavirus” Works should explore how we should live during COVID-19, focusing on the role that art plays in our lives and its impact on how we see the world during a global pandemic. When social distancing, self-isolation, and stay-at-home directives are in place, what meaning does community hold and what new forms does it take?

Because work will be displayed in an online gallery, only submissions that can be reproduced virtually without degradation will be considered. These include:
• Digital photographs or manipulations
• Video
• Digital illustrations

The submission deadline has been extended to 11:59pm (EDT), May 2, 2020.

Competition Rules

The competition is open to all currently-enrolled Duke undergraduate and graduate students.
• All submissions must be submitted via the submission form on the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ website by 11:59:59 pm EDT on April 26, 2020.
• All submissions must be original artwork created by the artist(s) indicated on the submission form.
• Each individual artist may submit up to two (2) pieces for consideration.
• Groups may submit single works, provided none of none of their members exceed two submissions.
• Artwork may be in any two-dimensional format that can be digitally reproduced without degradation, including the following:

  • Digital photographs or manipulations
  • Digital illustrations
  • Video (not to exceed 10 minutes in length)

• Still work should be submitted as a jpeg file, with a 5 megapixel (2560 x 1920px) minimum resolution, in sRGB
• Video work should be submitted as an mp4 file, with a minimum resolution of 720p<
• Artists should include a 1-3 paragraph explanation of the work as part the submission form. The judging panel will use this statement when evaluating the piece. If the piece is selected, the statement will be mounted alongside the work.
• A panel of faculty and staff will judge submissions based on effectiveness in fusing interesting ethical ideas and artistic expression.
• Selected pieces will be displayed in a virtual art gallery hosted by the Kenan Institute for Ethics by May 4, followed by a virtual gallery opening.

Click here to submit work

Purpose coaching

Students who can align their interests and abilities with something bigger than themselves are more likely to be happy, excellent in their work, comfortable with uncertainty, and resilient in the face of disappointment. Purpose-oriented students are, simply put, more likely to thrive in complex, pressurized, and diverse environments—those like Duke. But purpose discernment is a skill—one best incubated in a supportive and structured way.

This summer, the Kenan Institute for Ethics is offering group purpose coaching sessions. We’ll begin with sessions for undergraduates and plan to expand to graduate/professional students and alumni in the coming weeks. Our goal is to facilitate a group processing of the current moment in all its complexity—together. What values, norms, and imperatives shape how we think about where we are going in life? How might we forge greater alignment between what we think is important and how we spend our time? Each session will explore a different topic as a springboard to a wide-ranging conversation on what purpose means now, and each session will end with concrete steps participants can take to move forward.

Times indicated are PM, EDT unless otherwise noted. We would like to accommodate students with diverse schedules in many time zones, please contact us if you are a student interested in joining a session at a different time. For scheduling queries or more information, contact Christian Ferney.

Future Fridays

This spring, the Institute will to host a regular series for graduating seniors on forging a purposeful life after Duke. As graduation approaches, seniors naturally begin to imagine details of post-graduate life in earnest. How does one craft community in a new location? What does it mean to be more fully on one’s own? But equally, how does one set up a household, or adjust to often-different rhythms of work? These conversations attend to questions of purpose and pragmatics, in a relaxed, open, and often playful atmosphere.

This year, what “life after Duke” looks like is more uncertain than usual for many—and thus the opportunity to work through questions and anxieties together is all the more important. Together, we’ll respond to questions on seniors’ minds, learn a bit, and have a lot of fun along the way.

Each week, we’ll set a discussion topic to explore, and pair it with a style of beer. (Necessarily BYOB.)

This series is open to all graduating seniors. Join us via Zoom 3:30-5:00 EDT on Fridays this spring.

KIE Senior Fellow Michael Kliën Heads New Laboratory for Social Choreography

Before the piece begins, around twenty relative strangers meet with Michael Kliën to learn the basics of the “score” that will govern their movement for the duration of Parliament. The “rules” aren’t really rules at all; a simple proposition for how people might be together sets the tone. Working from a simple premise, everyone can determine how they want to interact. Six hours later, nearly everyone emerges from the shared experience exhilarated, feeling connected in ways they hadn’t anticipated—and not entirely sure how to explain what just happened. Unburdened from ordinary social cues and structures for several hours, participants move into a shared exploration of how to be in community. Parliament, Kliën notes, is embodied ethics.

Associate Professor of the Practice of Dance and new Institute Senior Fellow Michael Kliën has built his artistic career exploring how our thinking and social organization are embodied. Often our image of self centers on our brains as the center of our consciousness. This is limited, Kliën says: “A thought is a physical act.” Thus, if we want to change social institutions or norms, we must rethink how we move our bodies through space. That means reconsidering what different bodies are capable of and with whom different bodies interact.

The implications for this practice are wide-ranging and ambitious. Social choreographic techniques are being used to develop strategies for institutions to become flexible so that they can better adapt and learn; to develop novel (and more functional) ways of engaging in political discourse; and to understand the mostly unconscious social coding that keeps us moving in familiar-but-sometimes-unhealthy patterns. Kliën is currently teaching to his students in a first-year seminar on visionary thinking as part of the What Now? program.

The Laboratory for Social Choreography (LSC), also supported by The Franklin Humanities Institute, will be an incubator and hub for a range of social choreographic thinking and action. This spring, preparations are underway for a series of collaborations and projects to for the coming academic year, including instances of Parliament meant to connect people from disparate parts of the city of Durham and presenting the work at universities across the country; work with the new Master of Fine Arts in Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis; and a model for collaborative innovation with faculty.

Profile: 2019-2020 Graduate Arts Fellow Cassandra Klos

2019-2020 Graduate Arts Fellow Cassandra Klos has an abiding love for nature and science fiction. These influences are apparent across diverse photographic explorations of pain, stories of alien abduction, and her ongoing project focusing on space simulations across the country. That latter series, Mars on Earth, documents the work of scientists and artists as they prepare for the possible colonization of Mars. Klos has been a participant as well as an observer of these efforts. Traveling to remote, rocky sites in Utah, Texas, and Hawaii, Klos and her colleagues work to imagine and (as much as practicable) live as if they have left earth behind.

Documenting this work has at times created its own special challenges. Klos shot most of Life on Mars using a 4×5” large format camera. “I brought the oldest camera to this futuristic space,” she says. Dragging her heavy camera and tripod around, sometimes while wearing a full spacesuit, Klos captured landscapes and people operating in the space between the familiar and the speculative.

As part of her fellowship, Klos is curating an exhibit for the Keohane-Kenan Gallery this spring. Existence on the Periphery is one of her first curatorial projects. Bringing together artists working in illustration, film, and still photography, the show considers the likely impact of the Anthropocene on the environments in which humans persist and might eventually live. “The goal,” she says, “is to imagine different realities than what we’re accustomed to.”

Each artist in the exhibit facilitates that imagining. David Alabo, who is based in Ghana, creates lush illustrations that meditate on possible futures for sub-Saharan Africa. Allison Cekala’s video work of road salt makes visible the ways that resources are extracted and travel around the globe, creating an opportunity to consider the human hands and needs involved. Acacia Johnson’s photographs of indigenous people in the Arctic document the persistence of a way of life at the edges of human habitation—a way of life under existential threat from climate change. Video work by Janet Biggs offers considerations of how we might use technology in new ways. The show also features work from Klos’s Mars on Earth series.

Existence on the Periphery will be on display in the Keohane-Kenan Gallery from February 17th through March 29th.

A panel featuring Allison Cekala, Acacia Johnson, and Duke Professor of Cultural Anthropology Ralph Litzinger will take place in the Ahmadieh Conference Room on February 20th at 5:30pm. Reception to follow.

A film screening of Zhao Liang’s feature documentary Behemoth and short works by Janet Biggs and Allison Cekala will take place on February 24th at the Rubenstein Arts Center.