Humanitarian Challenges examines human rights in geographical contexts where desperate people cross borders and confront harsh conditions in places of refuge. Among the shared themes that link our courses are: the potential of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to harm as well as help fragile populations; the role of cross-cultural understanding in post-conflict situations; immigration debates in the USA and elsewhere; the potential for creative initiatives to inspire change; and interactions between refugees and the environments of host nations.
Drawing on the humanities and social sciences, we will identify sources of conflict as well as resources for reconciliation. Starting at the microcosmic level, we ask how ethnic and religious conflicts became institutionalized at particular sites by studying musical traditions, immigration law, prisons, climate-induced disasters, income disparity, and resource wealth or scarcity. Literary works deepen our appreciation of activists’ and survivors’ courage. Toolkits from demography and epidemiology reveal underlying structural causes of humanitarian crises. Environmental science provides information about the fixed and variable components of sustainable human security.
We approach global problems from “the ground up,” beginning with individuals in particular situations, for example, street rappers, child soldiers, prisoners, sexual minorities, ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) detainees, migrant farm workers, and NGO aid workers. On the basis of particular case studies, we ask what ethical and philosophical ideals should guide initiatives designed to help the millions of humans claim their human rights.
Our affiliation with the Borderwork(s) Humanities Lab alerts us to the importance of cultural as well as physical barriers that exclude broad categories of people from mainstream Americans’ moral universe. To see some of our guests from 2012, please go to: http://sites.fhi.duke.edu/borderworks/
The Duke Engage program in Belfast offers site-specific follow-up for students in the course.
Ingrid Byerly, Senior Lecturing Fellow, Department of Cultural Anthropology
Music can divide and unite, potentially serving as walls or portals between societies. Conciliatory and confrontational, it is filled with productive debate and destructive discord. It reveals the trends and ideologies of societies in flux, and is capable of instigating powerful changes, as well as unifying feuding parties in times of dynamic social and political crisis. The ‘soundtracks‘ of societies form and reflect their complex experiences, defining their unique and shared histories. Music forms and breaks barriers through sound, serving as both voice and memory, and offering a soundscape through which to listen to and understand people, groups and their history. This course explores music in this role across dynamic cultural histories.
Claudia Koonz, Professor and Peabody Family Chair, Department of History
Erika Weinthal, Associate Professor of Environmental Policy
What happens to an individual’s human rights when he or she crosses a frontier? When the need to eat is greater than the right to protection? When fear of murder offsets attachment to home? How can environments near refugee camps be protected from human damage? After introducing the international conventions to protect refugees, we will explore the socio-political and environmental drivers of mass migration. Then the practical work begins. Our mission is to design a model refugee camp for the 21st century – in this case, to shelter pastoral nomads fleeing the famine in the Horn of Africa, using GoogleEarth and other programs. Three-person teams will oversee pragmatic problems (siting the camp, protecting its perimeters, sanitation, aid distribution), political negotiations with local leaders, and internal camp life.
Catherine Admay, Visiting Professor, DCID Administration
This course will examine where and how international law intersects with global health inequalities. In what instances has international law been a positive force for addressing these inequalities and whn has the law itself compunded and extended the problem? In what sense do these inequalities cross borders, and in what sense do they fall in a purely national domain? How much border crossing does international law and the constitutional law that incorporates international law actually do? Through a variety of case studies-including constraints on contraception, protection measures against avian flu, tobacco control, rights to health and to essential medicines, and the ethics of clinical research trials-students will be challenged to critically assess the power and limitations of the law. Having a basic grasp of a handful of leading rules systems (among them, human rights, health, trade, biodiversity, intellectual property), students will be asked to consider the legal, political and ethical merits of pursuing better health outcomes through recourse to the law. And to consider effective complements to it. We will consider the law as lawyers must-attending to some of its technical complexities-but we will also seek to understand the extent to which the law's power resides as much in its political punch or/and moral appeal. In short, the course will work to situate international law and global health in the stream of strategic choices available to everyone who calls for better health by demanding greater justice.
Charlie Thompson, Curriculum and Education Director, Center for Documentary Studies
The border/frontera: a scar, a divide, a wall between friendly nations, a challenge for policy-makers, a line of demarcation for human rights abuses, a law enforcement nightmare, a pass-through for trade and NAFTA, a net for the poor, and the focus of this course. Study history, culture, policy, creative writing and art about the only border dividing two nations with such disparity in wealth. Look at the issue as it relates to Mexican farm workers and their work in U.S. fields. Think about solutions together. Learn what this all means for the future of the United States and how its citizens define themselves. Know where you stand along this deadly line in the sand.