Kenan Graduate Fellows in Ethics Spring Research Workshop

Celebrate the end of the academic year with the 2019-20 cohort of the Kenan Graduate Fellows in Ethics, as they present public talks based on their research. This is their second research workshop of the academic year, and will feature half of the scholars presenting their work. The virtual workshop will meet on Zoom Monday, April 27, 2:00-5:30PM. Each panelist will give a 6-8 minute “TEDx”-style presentation, followed by open discussion and Q&A.

*Please email Amber Díaz Pearson to RSVP and receive the Zoom meeting invitation.*

This year’s cohort represents five schools and ten different departments in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences at Duke. The fellows bring a vast array of methodological tools and experiences – from literary and biblical scholarship to psychological and policy analysis. During the year, all have explored topics with tightly interwoven empirical and ethical concerns, and worked together to identify and analyze the difficult normative issues engaged by their dissertations.


Kenan Graduate Fellows in Ethics Spring Research Workshop

Panel 1: “Are we human? Or are we dancer?” (What characteristics define a person, which are desirable, and who decides?)

    Songyao Ren (Philosophy): Compares Stoic and Zhuangist models of dispassion as they are grounded in two distinct pictures of the good life. While the Stoic is characterized by a closed self, self-sufficient and invulnerable to external contingencies, the Zhuangist is characterized by an open self, constantly able to expand her sense of self driven by the emotion of wonder.
    Rachel Gevlin (English): Explores how the novel, as the primary vehicle of idealized heterosexual romance for nearly three centuries, contributed to the gendered assumption that men experience a stronger sense of sexual desire than women. Although English divorce laws operated under this same gendered bias, the novel cemented this idea in the popular imagination.
    Adam Stanaland (Psychology & Neuroscience / Public Policy): Studies how the amount of social pressure about masculinity that men experience — above and beyond testosterone levels -– explains their aggression in response to threat.
    Alberto La Rosa Rojas (Theology): Examines ethics of migration by focusing on the moral agency of the migrant and the conditions and possibilities for the migrant’s flourishing. In particular, his work interrogates assumptions about the nature of human flourishing that underlie debates about the morality of borders, the limits of hospitality, and the utility of migration.

Panel 2: “We get to carry each other” (Solidarity and agency within communities)

    Elia Romera Figueroa (Romance Studies): Studies Spanish protest music during the 1960s and ‘70s, developing a framework to understand the relationship between musical collective practices in repressive contexts and the formation of experiences and narratives of resistance.
    Nathan Hershberger (Religion): Explores the relationship between scripture and ethics in the Christian tradition around issues of suffering and religious violence, especially regarding what role religion ought to play in transforming conflict.
    Hannah Ridge (Political Science): Examines the paradoxical disparity between high stated support for democracy as a system of government in the Middle East and low levels of actual democracy in the region by examining what citizens mean when they say they support “democracy.” Her survey research sheds light on debates about what it means for a state to be a democracy and what drives institutional development in the Middle East.


Permissible Plagiarism?

Recently, I’ve read numerous reports of artists who have offended their fans and contemporaries with arguably the most heinous crime an artist can commit. Usher, Bob Dylan, and Beyoncé have all been called plagiarists.

Leon Busy's "Woman Smoking Opium"
Leon Busy’s “Woman Smoking Opium”

The New York Times reports that critics have noted that some of Bob Dylan’s paintings in New York’s Gagosian Gallery seem to bear striking resemblances to others’ photographs. Take a look at his work, “Opium” above and Leon Busy’s “Woman Smoking Opium.”

Usher is contesting claims that his 2004 hit “Burn” gained a bit too much of its influence from songwriter Eric Lee Straughter’s “The Reasons Why.” My apparently musically underdeveloped ears could not sense significant similarities between the two songs, but Usher may have to testify before a jury to defend his originality.

Similarities between Beyoncé’s choreography in her new video for “Countdown” and choreography by Belgian Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker are more obvious. See a side-by-side comparison after the jump. Continue reading “Permissible Plagiarism?”

Unplugged: Taking the Interwebs to New Extremes


Could you go a day without using your cell phone? How about your laptop? TV? If you’re like most young adults today, you may answer these questions with a nervous laugh, say “Of course! I’m not dependent on it, I’m just, you know, fond of it…” while you reach protectively for your 4G technological gizmo. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

A recent study found that college students who were asked to give up media for 24 hours experienced physical symptoms of withdrawal. The experiment, titled “Unplugged” tracked the lives over 1,000 young adults for a single day without any access to media. Participants reported feeling fidgety, anxious, insecure, and isolated, among other physical and psychological symptoms. It’s like experiencing withdrawal from hard drugs, only the drug of choice is, um, your Droid.

Continue reading “Unplugged: Taking the Interwebs to New Extremes”

Beware of (Virtual) Trolls

With the Ides of March just behind us, I feel that it is fitting to issue a warning, for safekeeping: beware of trolls…on the internet.

Yes, I too thought that trolls were mythical creatures who only belonged under bridges in my childhood story, The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  Nevertheless, I have quickly learned that they are real, and they are everywhere!

What does an internet troll look like?  What will they do to you?

Check out the following video and find out:

Continue reading “Beware of (Virtual) Trolls”

What’s in a Name, What’s in a Nazi?

What’s in a name? Well, when the name happens to be “Nazi,” some might say a heck of  a lot! For some reason unbeknownst to those of us who don’t make a living on talk radio, it seems to be en vogue to refer to your political opponents as Nazis.

Those who are semi-competent students of history will know, however, that Nazis (the German word for the National Socialist Party headed by Hitler) and current United States political parties look almost nothing alike. In fact, some argue (such as this group of rabbis) that using the term Nazi in political debate is an insult to the millions of Jews, and others, who actually suffered under the Nazis’ genocidal rule.

Continue reading “What’s in a Name, What’s in a Nazi?”