Request for Proposals: Pilot Research Topics in Global Health Humanities

Duke Global Health Institute and Kenan Institute for Ethics logosAPPLICATION DEADLINE: April 15, 2024

In support of our vision to “seek to achieve health equity for vulnerable groups and individuals around the world,” the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) and the Kenan Institute for Ethics (KIE) invite interdisciplinary teams led by faculty with a DGHI or KIE affiliation to submit research proposals that explore global health from a humanities/humanistic social sciences perspective. Applications should address how the pilot project will focus on health humanities and obtain critical data to support a broad range of scholarly outcomes in this field. This pilot funding announcement aligns with our mutual mission to combat health inequities, which are an affront to a just society and stand as one of the greatest moral challenges of our time.

If we can help with introductions, please let us know!

DGHI faculty list
KIE faculty list

Contact: Kelly Deal

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Activists Reflect on Exhibit Commemorating their Historic Environmental Justice Protest

Widely considered to be the beginning of the environmental justice movement, the Warren County PCB Protests in 1982 brought together citizens young and old, Black and white, to demonstrate against the state of North Carolina’s plan to dump cancer-causing chemicals near their homes.

Two key participants, Dollie Burwell and Wayne Moseley, are featured in several photographs in the ongoing exhibit “We Birthed a Movement: The Warren County PCB Protests, 1978-1982.” In one photo by Jerome Friar showing a group of protestors, Burwell holds her hand against her chest, appearing deep in thought, as Moseley stands nearby, carrying an American flag.

On October 15, Burwell and Moseley visited the Kenan-Keohane Gallery to view the exhibit and hold a discussion with members of the community about the historic protests. They were joined by Rev. William Kearney, Director of the Warren County Environmental Action Team, and Stephen Fletcher, a photographic archivist at UNC-Chapel and a co-curator of the exhibit. Tyler Davis reported on the conversation in the Henderson Daily Dispatch. 


Burwell and Moseley reflected on their role in the historic protests, which culminated in direct action when hundreds of protesters laid down in the road to block incoming dump trucks carrying PCB-laden soil.

Burwell recalled how she began organizing after finding out about the planned landfill for toxic waste in her community. “Although we were not trying to start a movement, not trying to work a movement,” she said, “the movement found us.”

Moseley recounted how after his arrest, he and other protestors were taken to Warren County Jail, which had neither the space nor food for all of them. After they were turned out into the exercise yard, a group of supporters brought them fried chicken. Since the guards wouldn’t let them bring it inside, Moseley said, they ended up throwing it over the fence to the protestors. “It was a meal never to be forgotten,” he said.

Rev. Kearney said that he founded the Warren County Environmental Action Team to preserve the legacy of the protests for younger and future generations. He used the concept of “Sankofa,” or looking to the past, to describe the importance of history in the present day.

Read Tyler Davis’s coverage of the event, “Duke displays exhibit on PCB Protests,” in the Henderson Daily Dispatch here. While it is behind a paywall, the story can also be accessed via Newsbank here.

Kenan Senior Fellow Warns of the Dangers of the Growth Economy on Vox Podcast

Kenan Senior Fellow Dirk Philipsen recently appeared on the Vox podcast “Today, Explained.” In the September 29 episode “Blame Capitalism: Degrowing Pains,” Philipsen discusses our dangerous obsession with economic growth, as measured by the Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.

Philipsen explains the narrow viewpoint offered by the GDP: while it accurately measures the output of an economy, it overlooks essential but unpaid labor like the care economy. It also fails to differentiate between positive and negative economic contributions. 

“Whether the things we sell in the marketplace are good or bad,” Philipsen says, “toys or weapons, we do not care.”

Furthermore, the GDP does not consider the distribution of wealth and whether it is equitable or not, making it an inadequate measure of societal progress. 

The obsession with growth, as measured by the GDP, has led to an unsustainable economic system, Philipsen says.

“What we are doing currently is like a train racing towards the cliff.” – Dirk Philipsen

Philipsen also discusses the intersection between the Degrowth and environmental movements, pointing to a transformative period during the ‘60s and early ‘70s, when influential images like the “Blue Marble” photograph of Earth underscored the finite nature of our planet. Meanwhile, reports such as “The Limits to Growth” from the Club of Rome called attention to the economic unsustainability of growth. In a 1968 speech, Robert F. Kennedy argued against the reliance on GDP, saying “It’s everything except that that makes life worthwhile.”

Philipsen says that as the Degrowth movement becomes more popular with younger generations, it is challenging assumptions about how we measure economic success and whether growth is the only thing we should value.

For more of these perspectives, listen to the full podcast episode here.

“We Birthed the Movement”: Exhibit Showcases Historic Environmental Justice Protests in Warren County, N.C.

What do you do when the state of North Carolina turns your home into a dumping ground for toxic waste?

An ongoing exhibit in the Keohane-Kenan Gallery in the West Duke Building explores a community’s historical response to the planned construction of a landfill for cancer-causing PCBs. 

Titled “We Birthed a Movement: The Warren County PCB Landfill Protests, 1978-1982,” the exhibit focuses on a multi-racial, multi-generational protest against the dumping of 60,000 tons of PCB-contaminated soil in Afton, a small, majority Black town in rural Warren County.

Two girls walk down a rural road holding protest signs as other protestors follow
Wanda Andrews Saunders (left) and Consherto Williams carry signs during a 1982 protest. Photo credit and copyright: Jerome Friar.

“We Birthed a Movement” was originally displayed in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the protests in 2022. Curated by library staff members Biff Hollingsworth and Stephen Fletcher in collaboration with the Warren County community, the exhibit features photographs and archival documents, such as flyers, pamphlets, and correspondence.

Now displayed in the West Duke Building, the exhibit is a way for Duke University students and visitors to learn about historic events that took place less than an hour’s drive away.

“This exhibit depicts a key moment in environmental justice history,” said Kay Jowers, director of Just Environments at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability. “It also underscores the power of community-led advocacy. It’s important for the Duke community to understand the story of Warren County and other grassroots movements so that we can incorporate environmental justice into all of our sustainability efforts, including the Climate Commitment.” 

The exhibit takes the viewer on a journey beginning with N.C. Governor Jim Hunt’s 1978 decision to move 60,000 tons of soil contaminated with illegally dumped PCB to a Warren County landfill. Alarmed by the dangers to human health and the environment posed by this incoming landfill, communities in Warren County organized and pushed back. 

Young activists lie in the road, blocking lined up dump trucks. Highway patrolmen stand over them as others look on.
Unidentified protestors lie down in the road to block incoming dump trucks in 1982. Photo credit and copyright: Jenny Labalme. Labalme was a Duke student who photographed the protests as part of a course she was taking at the Center for Documentary Studies.

After political maneuvers and legal battles failed, nonviolent direct action ensued in 1982. Citizens lay in the road to prevent the trucks from transporting the contaminated material to the landfill. Nearly 500 people were arrested during the protests. Ben Chavis, prominent civil rights activist and member of the ‘Wilmington 10,’ coined the term “environmental racism” to describe the events.

Though the protests were ultimately unsuccessful at preventing the landfill, their legacy has endured. Forty years later, they are widely considered the beginning of the environmental justice movement.

The exhibit’s force comes from its focus on the community that led this movement, turning a difficult period of struggle into a show of the strength of coalition organizing. The photographs depict people of different races and generations coming together to fight injustice. But, as the exhibit notes, this work is far from done — giving us even more reason to learn from the not-so-distant past.

Join the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and the Warren County Environmental Action Team for a public viewing of the exhibit on Saturday, October 14 at 4 p.m., featuring speakers from the original Warren County PCB Landfill Protests. Dollie Burwell and Wayne Moseley will share their stories, and Rev. William Kearney will reflect on the movement’s legacy and moderate a subsequent discussion. The event will be followed by a light reception.

A crowd gathers around a minister in a field before a protest
A photograph from the exhibit shows Dollie Burwell (center, holding her hand against her neck) and Wayne Moseley (left, in striped polo shirt) as they gather with a crowd before a 1982 protest. Photo credit and copyright: Jerome Friar.


Fighting Political Polarization in the College Classroom

Rose teaches a course called “How to Think in the Age of Political Polarization.” He says he never shares his political views in the classroom; instead, he leads the discussion like a “ringmaster” of tough topics. Photo by Chris Hildreth for Duke Magazine.

In its 2023 fall edition, Duke Magazine interviewed John Rose, Associate Director of the Civil Discourse Project at the Kenan Institute of Ethics, about his popular course “How to Think in the Age of Political Polarization.” Rose describes how he encourages students to engage in dialogue by first recognizing their shared positive intent. This allows the class to explore a variety of contentious topics in their discussions. 

Rose’s approach is getting attention. His 2021 Wall Street Journal op-ed struck a chord with a former member of the Duke Board of Trustees, Peter Kahn, who worked to create a related alumni group, Friends for Free Speech & Intellectual Diversity at Duke. And after Jerry Seinfeld’s daughter mentioned the class she was taking with Rose, the comedian himself stopped by a discussion about freedom of expression in comedy last spring.

“I think there are few things more important at this moment in our history as a country than fighting against the kind of polarization that is so rampant in our communities.” – John Rose

Read the full article by Andrea Billups on the Duke Magazine website. 

Kenan Professor Explores the Ethics of Representation through Album Art

Wayne Norman
Wayne Norman climbs on his desk to show off his record collection in his office in the East Duke Building. Photo by Chris Hildreth for Duke Magazine.

In its 2023 Fall Edition, Duke Magazine interviews Wayne Norman, the Mike and Ruth Mackowski Professor of Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics, about his office display of records. Beyond their aesthetic value, Norman uses the album covers as a conversation starter about the music industry and race, pointing out the large number of albums by Black musicians in the ‘50s and ‘60s that have photographs of white women on the cover. He says has only found one example of the inverse: an album by a white musician with a Black woman on the cover.

What does this mean? He offers some theories.

“This category, it helps us tell a story about the mechanisms of systemic racism within a society. It’s a very vivid illustration of how an outrageous practice can hide in plain sight until it can’t.” – Wayne Norman

Read the full article by Corbie Hill on the Duke Magazine website, and watch the video interview with Dr. Norman below.