New Book by Kenan Senior Fellow Launched with Lecture and Discussion

Book launch_CHRIST AND THE COMMON LIFE_FLYER_PDFDuke Divinity School will hold a November 1st book launch and special lecture/discussion on Christ and the Common Life: Political Theology and the Case for Democracy, a new book by Professor Luke Bretherton, Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School and Kenan Senior Fellow.

Published in May by Eerdmans Publishing Co., the book is a guide to the historical and contemporary relationship between Christianity and politics, while making a compelling case for why Christians should be committed to democracy. 

In the book, Bretherton considers a range of Christian approaches to political engagement across the Americas, Africa, and Europe. In dialogue with Scripture, along with numerous theologians, ethicists, and political thinkers, Bretherton examines the dynamic relationship between who we are in relation to God and who we are as moral and political animals. He addresses fundamental political questions about poverty and injustice, forming a common life with strangers, and handling power constructively.

Through Bretherton’s analysis of debates concerning race, class, economics, the environment, interfaith relations, and other topics, he develops an innovative political theology of democracy as a way through which Christians can speak and act faithfully within the contemporary context, and at the same time pursue a just and compassionate common life with others who don’t share their beliefs and practices.

Christ and the Common Life guides readers through the political landscape and identifies the primary vocabulary, ideas, and schools of thought that shape Christian reflection on politics. Ideal for use in the classroom, the book equips students to understand politics and its positive and negative role in fostering neighbor love.
Source: divinity.duke.edu (read full description) //
See a video of Professor Luke Bretherton discussing his new book.

Bretherton adds:

“At a time when many in churches think democracy is either unable to address systemic issues such as climate change or are joining authoritarian movements, this book examines why democracy became a key way Christians understand the command to love their neighbor and makes a case for why democratic politics is a vital way to faithfully struggle for justice and against all forms of domination. In doing so, the book touches on many issues of central concern to the Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Religions in Public Life Initiative, particularly around inequality, diversity, racism, the environment, and the relationship between ethics and politics.”

The launch event will feature Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale University and Founding Director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture, giving the keynote lecture in response to the book and a panel discussion. In addition to Bretherton, panelists will be: Melissa Snarr, Associate Professor of Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt Divinity School; and from Duke Divinity School, Patrick Smith, Associate Research Professor of Theological Ethics and Bioethics and Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute, and Dean L. Gregory Jones, Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams Jr. Distinguished Professor of Theology and Christian Ministry.

Friday, November 1, 2019 – 5:30pm
Penn Pavilion, West Campus, Duke University, 107 Union Dr., Durham, NC 27701
(more information)

Kenan Senior Fellow responds to US Secretary of Agriculture

Commentary: Small farms valuable assets to society, sustainability

Charles D Thompson Jr
Charles D. Thompson, Jr

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue went to Wisconsin’s dairy land recently and issued a heartless statement regarding struggling American farms.

“The big get bigger and the small go out,” he proclaimed, leaving family farmers and their advocates across the nation aghast. How can the man tasked with protecting farmers say something so crass? If nothing else, Perdue gave us an honest glimpse into just how biased toward big farms he and others like him really are.

He should have also added that the USDA has long favored the big farms at the expense of the small, and their decades of policies since the Great Depression prove it. The big got bigger because our government nurtured them. And while the U.S. has feigned support for small farms, we have rarely helped them. The striking fact is that so many small farms have survived anyway, a testament to their value to society and their sustainability.

When I was young, I had so many relatives on farms that I believed I too could be a farmer. But by the 1980s, I had witnessed the demise of every farm in our family. Though I still wanted to be a farmer, I realized to do so meant a fight for justice. I never heard farmers “whine,” as Perdue joked elsewhere, nor have I ever heard a small farmer ask for a free ride. Certainly none of my relatives ever got one.

Read the full story here.

Also read Thompson’s Good Question:  How are the U.S. immigration system, the decline of rural America, and food justice connected?

Are We Home Yet? UN High Commissioner Visits Kenan

“What a great day,” Masoka beamed. Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Durham Mayor Steve Schewel joined students and community members in the Kenan Refugee Project on a tour of Are We Home Yet? a photovoice exhibit curated by Sloan Talbot (Trinity ’19) and designed by Tommy Klug (Trinity ’18).

Newcomer youth from local high schools were thrilled to have the opportunity to share their work in the exhibit and experience resettling in Durham. The High Commissioner then received a private briefing both on Institute work with refugees locally and internationally as well as Kenan program director Tra Tran’s research on refugee mental health and art therapy interventions.

quote: what a great day


Are We home. yet?

Are We home. yet?
Are We home. yet?
Are We home. yet?
Are We home. yet?

Are We home. yet?

photos by: annacarsondewittphotography.com

Kenan Alum Makes Forbes “30 under 30”

Gautam Chebrolu
Yossuf Albanawi (left) & Gautam Chebrolu (right)

Forbes has released its annual “30 under 30” list which includes Kenan alum Gautam Chebrolu (E’17) among its list of top Social Entrepreneurs.  Chebrolu, and Pilleave co-founder Yossuf Albanawi,  are recognized for their work combating the opioid crisis through an innovative approach to prescribing, distributing, and using the drug. 

Chebrolu’s first Duke experience came with the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ pre-orientation program Project Change, which works with local community and charitable organizations to examine Durham’s social needs. He continued engaging fellow students, scholars and practitioners in a variety of fields as a member of Team Kenan. The summer before his junior year, he embarked on a research project following a philanthropic microloan from start (his wallet) to finish (a motorcycle repairman in Nairobi, Kenya). Over the course of the summer, he developed a new appreciation for the potential of social entrepreneurship while also recognizing its limitations in meeting the actual needs of small business owners.

Chebrolu shared the following in response to being named one of Forbes “30 under 30” for 2019:

“We are really honored to be placed on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for Social Entrepreneurship this year, especially because we never expected it. When Yossuf and I joined forces, we simply wanted to build something that could have helped us or our family. And after talking to so many people along this journey, we realized that pretty much everybody knows someone that has struggled with substance abuse or has gone through it themselves. We want to do whatever we can to help. 
When we first heard the news, I immediately thought about how we got to this point and how it really all started with Kenan. Beginning with thinking about “ethical leadership and sustainable service” through pChange, then working with HackDuke: Code for Good in the early stages, and then being able to really dive into what social entrepreneurship was with my Kenan Summer Fellowship, I was given the opportunity to really critically analyze what made me honestly uncomfortable about “social entrepreneurship” and gave me the space to piece together what are effective practices in this space. And I took all those into Pilleve. “

Pilleve (link to full story)

The opioid crisis is one of the biggest public health challenges in America today, with more than 115 dying of an overdose a day. Pilleve, cofounded by Gautam Chebrolu and Yossuf Albanawi, who himself struggled with substance abuse, aims to fight addiction through early intervention with its secure pill dispenser. Patients receive their opioid prescription in a Pilleve bottle and pills are dispensed one by one after patients input their pain levels, mood and side effects into an app. Pill intake data is also collected in real time and sent to providers if patients are taking more than prescribed. Pilleve has partnered with one of the largest pain clinic in Maryland to launch the device and is looking to expand its pilot to California, Massachusetts and Georgia in 2019.

– taken from www.forbes.com


Ethics of Now Series Kicks off with Tommy Orange

Ethics of Now with Tommy Orange Ethics of Now with Tommy Orange Ethics of Now with Tommy Orange


This second year of  the Ethics of Now Series is off to a momentous start with NY Times best-selling author Tommy Orange leading the charge.  Entering a record-capacity Durham Arts Council theatre to roaring applause, Orange and discussant Adriane Lentz-Smith were eagerly welcomed into this gathering of the greater Durham community. Kenan Director Suzanne Shanahan introduced the Series, describing the Ethics of Now as an opportunity to “bring together authors, activists, and academics to have a chat with Adriane about issues and concerns that both Durham residents and Duke folks have.”

Duke historian and Kenan Senior Fellow Adriane Lentz-Smith introduced Orange as a Graduate of the MFA Program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, and born and raised in Oakland, CA.  “His book There There was on pretty much every best book list from the New York Times to Entertainment Weekly, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize,  and even Obama’s summer reading list.”   Lentz-Smith began the evening with a land acknowledgement statement as well as an explanation as to its importance, which Orange touted as the best he had ever heard. Lentz-Smith explained: “One of the reasons people do land acknowledgement statements is to remind us that our stories are not the first stories to unfold in the space that we occupy and to think about the ways we walk amongst not just the memories of people, but also acknowledging the people our government worked to displace.  In doing so we bring a sense of seeing, saying, knowing and reckoning, which are themes we will be discussing more tonight.”

Lentz-Smith and Orange continued in conversation for the next hour around themes in and beyond There There.  Orange beautifully characterized growing up in Oakland as the son of a white mother and Cheyenne father as he shared influential experiences from his youth.  Committed to a more genuine narrative of American history, Orange turned to writing as a means to illustrate the untold stories of Native people in modern and urban environments.   When talking about discovering the power of the novel, Orange said: “I write because I truly believe in the impact of what art can do in lives and to help a very troubled world.”  The evening’s discussion concluded with Lentz-Smith inviting Orange to read a passage from his novel before opening the floor for an abundance of audience questions and comments.

Ethics of Now with Tommy Orange

To read Tommy Orange is to contend with histories that, as he puts it, “run counter to the way the American narrative has been told.” In There, There he opts for brutal honesty over comforting fictions and empathy over complacency.  In so doing, he offers Native Americans and all Americans a means of healing the wounds of the past and present.

The Ethics of Now continues on October 18th with the Women’s Prize for Fiction recipient and NY Times best-selling author of An American Mariage Tayari Jones.  Read more about the entire 2019-2020 series here.



Virtues & Vocations: $1.5 million Grant to Fund Reimagining the Character of Professional Education

character buildingProfessions are the backbone of our cultural, economic, legal, and social institutions. A professional has the responsibility to develop and maintain a requisite body of knowledge, while also upholding norms of good behavior and competence all in service to others in one’s practice. Character formation is an inevitable, inescapable, and crucial part of what it means to choose a profession and become a professional. However, professionals and the schools that train professionals often have great difficulty identifying the role of character should play. Professional fields have largely focused on the development and maintenance of technical knowledge among their practitioners while adhering to a set of behavior-based ethics, without attending to the development of virtuous character. As a result, none of the professions, nor any of their leading professional schools, are focused on the pathways and models for intentionally selecting, educating, and forming professionals with the mindsets, habits, and commitments that cultivate virtuous character.

With a $1.5 million grant from the Kern Family Foundation, the Kenan Institute and Divinity School seek to fill this gap. “This grant is an opportunity to lead a national conversation about virtue, vocation and professional education and to develop best practices for the cultivation of character at the very moment when concerns of professional burnout, careerism and insufficient ethical training are increasing across professions” notes Kenan Institute’s Nannerl O. Keohane Director, Suzanne Shanahan.

In what we hope will be a long term partnership, the Kenan Institute and Divinity School in collaboration with the Kern Family Foundation plan to cultivate a vibrant national forum to deepen the conversation around how best to shape character in professional education through annual national conferences. Each conference will bring multi-disciplinary scholars and practitioners together to test, sharpen, and deepen understandings of character in the professions. The national conferences will serve as a space for experimentation, producing new scholarly literature, pedagogies, curricula, and practices that will be disseminated widely and that others can adopt. In the words of L. Gregory Jones, Dean of the Divinity School, these conferences will “elevate the importance of character in professional education, and to inspire and encourage more effective teaching, research, and engagement across diverse professions.”