A vibrant interdisciplinary community of scholars, students, and practitioners dedicated to understanding the moral challenges of our time and creating scholarly frameworks, policy, and practice to address them.
Angela Bischof is a third-year PhD student in the Philosophy department. She holds a BA in Philosophy and a BA in Psychology from New Mexico State University. Her research concerns the moral standing of nonhuman animals. Specifically, she is focused on the cognitive abilities important for morality and whether or not animals have any of these abilities. This research approach led Angela to examine the relationship between rationality and morality. By examining the intersection of animal psychology, what it means to be moral, and what it means to be rational, she hopes to answer the following questions: “To what extent are animals worthy of moral consideration?” and “Are animals ever capable of acting morally?”
Hannah Borenstein is a 3rd year PhD student in the department of Cultural Anthropology. Her research is about the everyday lived and embodied experience of young women working in Ethiopia to gain a foothold in the global economy of running. Running economy – a multi-faceted physiological measure in sports science to determine how much energy an athlete uses to travel a certain distance at a certain speed – is used as a lens to explore how women value, and change the valuation of, their bodies, always linked to the political economy of the global athletics market. Histories of racist biologism in athletics and a growing interest in sports science within Ethiopia shape relationships that young female runners have with their bodies, which are also negotiated in relation to coaches, international agents, officials, and fans. Her project takes as its central concerns the frictions emerge as young athletes move - bodily, economically, spatially, temporally - that are premised on the idea of running toward something better.
Eric Cheng is a PhD candidate in Political Science, specializing in Political Theory. His research contributes to a better understanding of the problems and possibilities of liberal democracy. He is currently working on his dissertation, entitled Hanging Together: A Liberal Democratic Theory of Political Friendship for Troubled Times. It argues for the importance of political friendship in liberal democratic societies. Specifically, the dissertation (1) argues that liberal democracies must take political friendship seriously in order to avoid the destabilizing consequences of excessive polarization and (2) thinks seriously about how political friendship might be reinforced. Beginning with an interpretation of Aristotle’s classic articulation of political friendship, the dissertation considers different ways in which political friendship might be realized in contemporary liberal democratic contexts: ‘political friendship as conceptual metaphor,’ ‘constitutional patriotism,’ ‘liberal nationalism.’ Through these conversations, the dissertation develops an understanding of what sorts of people citizens must be and what sorts of relations they must share, if stability is to be cultivated in a manner consistent with the core commitments of liberal democracy. A Canadian, Eric holds a A.B. in Government and Philosophy from Georgetown University and an M.A. in Legal and Political Theory from University College London.
Emily Dubie is a PhD student in the Graduate Program in Religion, with a focus in Christian ethics. Her research examines the moral perplexities and emotional fatigue of providing care within bureaucratic settings. She is especially interested in how Christian social workers draw upon religious beliefs and practices as they distribute social services across asymmetries of power. Emily received a MTS from the University of Notre Dame in moral theology and a BA from Saint Anselm College in international relations.
Bryce Gessell is a fifth-year PhD student in the philosophy department, studying the relationship between the mind and the brain. His ethical work investigates characterizations of mental illness from both psychiatric and neurological perspectives, with a focus on how diagnostic categories drive decision-making in medical ethics as well as in the allocation of research funding.
Kelly Hunter is a Ph.D. student with a concentration in political science at the Sanford School of Public Policy. Hunter’s research lies at the intersection of gender and international relations. Her current project frames access to family planning and reproductive health as a global public good and a human rights issue. Hunter investigates the impact of the US’s “Global Gag Rule” (a policy aimed at restricting abortions by limiting US foreign aid funding for family planning) on 1. Other donor countries’ family planning aid contributions and 2. Women’s outcomes in the recipient country (specifically: health, education, and labor force participation outcomes). Her research touches on a number of broader ethical themes, including the role of the US in promoting human rights norms, the implications of US hegemony and policies on the actions of other countries, the prospect of international cooperation for providing global public goods, and the security consequences of demographic shifts, such as a youth bulge.
Chris Kennedy is a PhD candidate in Political Science, specializing in political theory. He is interested in the political significance of the internet, especially with respect to controversies over the uses and abuses of information technology. The suspicion that the advent of the internet marks a qualitative change in the development of human affairs motivates much diagnosis but little instruction about the contemporary political moment. It is one thing to recognize new appearances to old problems, and another to regard technological change as potential guidance to different answers. Are there normative implications to recent advances in information technology? In his dissertation, Chris examines three ethical debates about the proper uses of the internet in a liberal democratic society. Each controversy reflects a basic disagreement about the appropriate domain of the public sphere: whether to accommodate electronic forms of civil disobedience, to treat digital information as intellectual property, or to sanction the act of leaking. For each issue, he engages with the work and writings of contemporary political activists—whose software development functions as a tool for political dissent—as well as canonical authors in the American political tradition, whose views about the maintenance of a liberal democratic society were tacitly shaped by their understanding of previous periods of technological change.
Karen Little is a PhD candidate in English and works for the Representing Migration Humanities Lab. Her dissertation examines representations of black American property ownership in twentieth century US fiction and film, especially by black American authors such as Richard Wright, Ann Petry, Octavia Butler, and Gloria Naylor. In service of this project, she researches the history of discriminatory and exclusionary property law in the US, the rights associated with home-ownership, and theorists who imagine a more ethical system of property. Her project is premised on the belief that everybody deserves the protections and comforts of home and also recognizes that this is a tall order without radical systemic change; she suspects that novelists have the most imaginative responses to this conundrum. She has a BA in English, an MA in Secondary Education, and an MA in English from University of Kentucky.
Antong Liu is a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Political Science. Before coming to Duke, he studied at Peking University and received his bachelor degree in International Politics and Sociology. Interested in the ethics of political participation for modern citizens in an imperfect world, he specializes in normative political theory and focuses on the history of political philosophy. Born and raised in Beijing and studying Western political thought in Durham, Antong appreciates cross-cultural dialogue and devotes to it by reading Western political thought from his unique perspective. His dissertation reinterprets the works of three key thinkers of the 18th century, Rousseau, Smith, and Kant. This reinterpretation serves to show how the sense of honor, which is no longer popular in the Western world but remains highly respected in many non-Western societies, could have been a valuable moral incentive for modern citizens living in Western societies to not only stand up to injustice and disrespect but also refrain from themselves becoming unjust and disrespectful.
Marcus Mann is a Ph.D. Candidate in the sociology department. He holds a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst and Masters degrees in religious studies and sociology from Duke. His dissertation uses experiments, interviews, and computational methods to examine misinformation on social media (sometimes called ‘fake news’). He’s particularly interested in partisan asymmetry in its consumption and diffusion, with political conservatives being nearly exclusively responsible for both, and what the broader implications are for how partisans think about truth and knowledge in an increasingly chaotic and polarized news environment.
Cole Rizki is a PhD candidate in the Literature Program and his dissertation focuses on contemporary transgender activisms in Argentina. Rizki’s work considers how the legacy of Argentine genocide and state terrorism (1976-83) shapes present day transgender human rights claims. Through visual culture analysis, ethnographic interviews, and archival research, Rizki’s dissertation reorganizes the study of Argentine activisms by suggesting unexpected coalitions between current gender and sexuality rights advocates and the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. In Fall 2016, Rizki taught Duke’s first “Introduction to Transgender Studies” service-learning course where his students partnered with local non-profit organizations to develop resources for trans and non-binary folks. Rizki currently sits on the Board of Directors of statewide non-profit organization EqualityNC and serves as Trans Subcommittee Chair of Duke’s LGBTQ Task Force working with administrators, faculty, and staff to develop LGBTQ inclusive policies for Duke University and affiliated hospital systems. He is the co-editor of forthcoming Transgender Studies Quarterly special issue “Trans Studies en las Américas” slated for May 2019.
Zimife Umeh is a PhD candidate in the sociology department. She received a B.S. in Finance and B.A. in Africana Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Her current research examines the collateral consequences of incarceration. In her dissertation, she looks specifically at the reentry experiences of formerly incarcerated mothers. She explores what types of institutions mothers engage with and what type they avoid following their release from prison. She also examines how their roles as caregivers, their relationships with their children, and relationships with their children’s caregivers (while they were incarcerated) shape their decisions to engage or avoid institutions. Finally, she examines the approaches used when engaging with institutions, and racial differences in utilized strategies.
Sara Wingrove is a third year PhD candidate in the Management & Organizations department at the Fuqua School of Business. Prior to attending Duke University, Sara received her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. Her primary research interests explore perceptions of motivation, interpersonal goal pursuit, and knowledge overlap. Her dissertation will examine how people form meta-expectations (expectations about the expectations others hold for themselves) based on social class. Her preliminary work suggests that people expect individuals from lower socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds to expect less from themselves and to set less challenging goals for themselves. Because people expect lower SES individuals to set less challenging goals, lower SES individuals are evaluated less favorably in the context of hiring and work performance. In her dissertation, she will explore how these discriminatory assumptions about goal pursuit prevent social mobility and maintain the status quo.
Wen Zhou is a third year PhD student in Evolutionary Anthropology. Her work focuses on how animal conservation could help reduce dehumanization. Dehumanization is a way to degrade another human group by depriving them of characteristics which separate humans from "lower" animals. This process paves the way for prejudice, discrimination, and at its most extreme, genocide. She proposes a potential solution to dehumanization by arguing that dehumanization would lose its meaning if the society does not place a lesser value on animals relative to humans. Her dissertation research examines if encouraging people to care about animals could increase empathy toward other human groups which are perceived and treated as animals. Her work will tackle debates including origins of group-based discrimination, connections between intergroup conflicts among humans and human-animal relations, and budget conflicts over the resources spent on saving animals and used for human beings.
Sarah Bess Jones Zigler is a PhD candidate in the Marine Science and Conservation program at the Duke Marine Lab. Her background is as an environmental anthropologist and her current interests include political ecology, postcolonial theory, science and technology studies, and decolonizing methodologies. Her current research is in Rapa Nui (formerly known as Easter Island, Chile) working with indigenous social movement leaders to study how marine conservation practice can (and cannot) encompass multiple ways of knowing/being/performing what exists in ‘nature’ to be conserved. Her dissertation explores how environmental conflicts point to a politics over what exists (ontological conflict) and the denial or erasure of the ontological nature of these politics is a key limitation to the expression of indigenous rights.