Ethics, Leadership & Global Citizenship


Does one government have the right to insist on another government’s adherence to human rights standards? Do corporations have an obligation to invest in the communities where they do business? How do we reconcile the need for development and need for conservation? Who gets to decide how natural resources are used? What does an ethical immigration policy look like? Who is responsible for the growing world refugee population? Is humanitarian intervention always a good thing? Is our obligation to local poverty different than it is global poverty? Can radical inequality ever be just?

The Ethics, Leadership and Global Citizenship Focus Program cluster grapples with the questions countries, companies, and individuals increasingly confront in a global world. It is about how to create and evaluate solutions to these ethical challenges. Drawing upon insights from anthropology, philosophy, sociology and public policy, we explore together what it means to be a global citizen and ethical leader in the twenty-first century, and what rights and obligations come with global citizenship. Bringing together theory, contemporary case studies from around the world, and local service learning opportunities, this cluster cultivates the crucial tools of moral dialogue necessary for lifelong engagement—locally, nationally, globally—as ethical leaders.

We seek to build a sustainable community of students engaged in ethical inquiry, and you would have access to additional civic engagement and research opportunities offered through the Kenan Institute for Ethics. During the fall semester, there will be a Focus field trip to Washington D.C. to explore questions of national and global citizenship with a variety of policy makers and practitioners in government, non governmental and international organizations and think tanks.. In addition, Focus students are welcomed into the Institute’s community of engaged student leaders, with additional academic and experiential opportunities, including DukeEngage Dublin, the Kenan Summer Fellows Program, the Refugee Resettlement Project in Durham, Egypt, Jordan and Nepal, and Team Kenan.


Ethics 190FS - Sovereignty, Space & Storytelling: Solidarity & Resistance in a Decolonizing World (EI, CZ, CCI)

Leela Prasad

Leela Prasad, Professor of Religious Studies and Professor in the Program of Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies

How do we understand others, especially when so much of of modern geopolitics is centered on domination? In this course, we’ll use a variety of tools to uncover the moments of resistance and narrative freedom that have always been present in even the most totalizing environments. In so doing, we will work towards a framework for thinking and living beyond the legacies of the colonial templates that continue to reverberate in our political and imaginative landscapes. Through exploration of multiple genres (including autobiography, film, and children’s literature) and multiple perspectives (including those of Indians under British Colonial rule; Native Americans and First Nations people in North America; and African Americans in the American South) we will consider the micro-ethics of being human in a post-colonial world.

Ethics 190FS/Public Policy 190FS — Environmental Justice Dynamics: Movements, Countermovements, and Institutional Responses (SS, EI, CCI)


Kay Jowers, Senior Policy Associate at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

This course examines the environmental justice movement, its countermovements, including nationalist and conservative movements, and how their interplay shapes political opportunities and responses. We will consider the substantive concerns of the environmental justice movement (the needs of humans in the built environment), its methods (community-based political organizing carefully coordinated with allies within legal professions and academia), and the scales at which it operates (local, national, global). Because social movements of political significance will generate opposition, we will also consider the rise of nationalist and conservative movements that interact with and challenge the environmental justice movement. These topics will be explored using a range of materials, including scholarly books, articles, case studies, and documentary films.

Ethics 129FS/Political Science 176FS/International Comparative Studies 128FS/Public Policy 181FS — Human Rights & World Politics (EI, SS)


Juliette Duara, Visiting Scholar at the Kenan Institute for Ethics

This course examines the role of human rights and global justice in world politics. It seeks to understand how and why the human rights regime was created, how human rights standards and notions of global justice have evolved, and the role of advocacy organizations in promoting human rights at both the domestic and international levels. We will consider questions such as whether human right are universal, what role human rights and global justice should be play in U.S. foreign policy, which strategies are most effective in promoting human rights and global justice, and which risk inciting backlash. The course will cover topics including civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; genocide, torture, business and human rights, conflict diamonds and university investment, humanitarian intervention, and the international criminal court. It will use a range of materials, including scholarly books and articles, case studies, NGO reports and films.  

Psychology 197FS — Addiction and Substance Abuse: Global Health Perspectives (NS, SS, EI)


Amir Rezvani, Professor in Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; Professor of Psychology & Neurosciences

Addiction, as a global social and health issue, is a treatable brain disease. As the third leading cause of death in the U.S., substance abuse is ranked behind cardiovascular disease and cancer in total mortality. Between 25% and 40% of hospital beds are occupied by patients having complications related to alcoholism and substance abuse. When undetected, alcohol and substance abuse lead to major medical and social problems such as pancreatitis, cirrhosis, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and contribute to the occurrence of hypertension, diabetes, GI problems, psychiatric symptoms, violence and fetal anomalies. Alcohol and other forms of drug abuse have far-reaching and devastating effects on children, families, and society, including domestic violence, child abuse, sexual abuse, crime, and workplace injuries. The cost to society is astronomical.  Approximately 8.7 million people die globally per year from tobacco use alone. Opioid addiction is also a major problem. More than 70,000 Americans died from drug-involved overdose in 2019, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids. Overall, drug overdose deaths rose significantly from 2010 to 2020. It is not surprising that the COVID-19 pandemic also resulted in increased substance abuse, especially among regular drug users.

The major goal of the course is to develop scientific, clinical, and social perspectives on the issue of addiction and substance abuse disorders. Students will be able to develop a scientific perspective on the etiology of addiction and effects of social factors such as disease pandemic in its manifestation. We will explore the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on substance abuse and mental health. We will also address the positive and negative aspects of legalization of marijuana. Be ready for an exciting scientific debate. This course will cover the neuropharmacology of addiction, particularly alcoholism. Students will be presented with current disease concepts of addiction, several models of addiction and appropriate intervention and treatment strategies relevant to each model. Students will visit with the Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers (TROSA) in Durham, a unique therapeutic community (TC), which is based on principles of self-help and will conduct interviews and interact with recovering residents. Students will be given the opportunity to hear from several recovering drug addicts coming from different socio-economic and health backgrounds. Students will also get involved in self-designed individual and group projects to better understand the nature of drug addiction and the process of behavioral changes. Possible contributing factors, such as environment, genetics, religion and beliefs socioeconomic status, and mental health in initiation, prevention and treatment of substance abuse and addiction will be discussed.