Exploring contemporary international human rights challenges by promoting innovative pedagogy, interdisciplinary research collaborations, and academic-practitioner partnerships.

What We Do

We are committed to engaging human rights from multiple vantage points — critical and supportive, a scholarly and advocacy perspectives, using explicit framings of human rights as well as more implicit understandings. Thematically, we focus on issues such as discrimination (caste; Muslim Americans) and institutional responsibilities (corporate accountability).

Creative Pedagogy

Our creative pedagogy involves a number of programs including the Business and Human Rights Advocacy Lab, the Global Human Rights Scholars program and the Annual Spring Student Research Symposium. In the BHR Advocacy Lab, a seminar class taught each spring, students work in teams on a policy project for an NGO partner. The goal of this class is to introduce students to the rapidly evolving field of BHR, to give them a sense of what human rights advocacy work looks like, specifically in the BHR context. Our partners have included Seva Mandir, Corporate Responsibility Watch and MSI Integrity. With MSI Integrity, we have an on-going project collecting data on Multistakeholder Initiatives. For the Global Human Rights Scholars, students blog on a monthly basis about a human rights topic of their choice and read and comment on one another’s draft posts. The goal of this project is to encourage students to engage one another in-depth on human rights topics, and to learn about writing accessibly for the public. We also hold a student research symposium every year on alumni weekend to showcase capstone projects from students at Duke and UNC. Duke alumni in the human rights field and the global human rights scholars serve as discussants.



Interdisciplinary Faculty Collaborations

One of our approaches to facilitating interdisciplinary faculty collaborations is through our Conversation in Human Rights series. Twice a semester we work with a duke faculty member to bring to Kenan either two outside faculty from different disciplines or a faculty and a practitioner to discuss a contemporary human rights issue. This is a discussion-focused series that mainly draws duke faculty, graduate students and post docs. This series allows us to support faculty and engage people at Duke who do not necessarily in frame their interests in terms of human rights but who work on issues closely related to human rights. We have also launched a new Faculty Fellows program, in which two faculty help organize and participate in events each year, as well provide intellectual leadership for the center.

Academic-Practitioner Partnerships

One of the ways we facilitate academic-practitioner partnerships is through Kenan’s Practitioner-in-Residence program, where we invite people working in the field of human rights to spend time at the Kenan Institute, whether it is a few days or a few weeks. In the last few years we have been fortunate enough to have visits by Anne Gallagher (human trafficking), Amit Sen (statelessness) and Jamie Kalven (police abuse). A second way we attempt to bridge the academic-policy worlds is through our Pathways of Change program. The core goal of this program is to help students think about the tradeoffs between different approaches to social change, including top down vs. bottom up, community centered vs. policy focused, and confrontational vs. collaborative approaches to change. To do this we place students in summer internships with very different types of organizations, public and private, working in the field of business and human rights, womens’ rights and environmental justice. We ask students to reflect both individually and collectively on the strengths and limits of various approaches to social change. Students also enroll in a follow-up seminar in the fall, called theories and strategies of social change, that provides a space for them to connect their summer experiences to interdisciplinary scholarship on approaches to social change.