2019-2020 Graduate Working Groups on Global Issues

  • Working Group for the Amazon
    The Amazon is a vital biome to be conserved if we want to achieve our climate goals and avoid catastrophic climate change. Thousands of indigenous communities call it home, and it provides a wide range of ecosystem services to the world. However, reconciling economic development and the provision of those ecosystem services inevitably leads to highly complex questions. What are the policy and economic instruments needed to change behaviors from different stakeholders? How can the different organizations that work for the Amazon cooperate and build on each other's expertise and work? How to trigger sustainable business practices from the corporations' source commodities that contribute to deforestation? What are the scientific and technological advances that can put us in a better position to protect the Amazon? The interdisciplinary nature of these questions calls for interdisciplinary analysis and institutional collaboration. Our Working Group for the Amazon will give a space to graduate students to be active in proposing pathways to answer these questions. We will learn from academics and practitioners and will set the platforms to inspire new work and new ideas.
    Contact: Juan Llano Caldas  |  juan.llano@duke.edu
  • Black Sound & the Archive
    Black Sound and the Archive, inspired by Yale University's working group, is an intellectual hub for scholars working on the intersections of Sound Studies, African Diaspora Studies and archival theory. In the past few years, there has been an explosion of scholarship on sound studies as it relates to anthropology, literature, art/art history, history, music, and digital humanities. Yet these conversations tend to be siloes. Our work acknowledges the necessity of connecting scholars across multiple disciplines in order to challenge critical silences in the field of sound studies as it relates to Blackness and the archive. This working group will bring together graduate students, faculty and postdocs throughout the semester for readings, presentation and discussions of their work.
    Contact: Ayanna Legros  |  ayanna.legros@duke.edu
  • Corruption in Developing Countries
    Corruption is a prevalent and ubiquitous phenomenon in developing countries, permeating from the top to the bottom of society. Although political scientists, economists and policymakers all study corruption, there have been surprisingly little fruitful interdisciplinary conversations on the topic. Our working group aims to bring together people from different cultures and academic departments to work together on research on corruption from an interdisciplinary perspective. Fostering an ongoing conversation will aid enormously in deepening our understanding of corruption and in helping us come up with ways to fight it, wherever necessary.
    Contact: Mateo Villamizar Chaparro  |  santiagomateo.villamizar.chaparro@duke.edu
  • Decolonizing Global Health in LMICs*
    The purpose of this working group is to provide a space where future global health leaders can engage in dialogue and participate in seminars aimed at: (1) recognizing the structures that shape prominent issues in global health; (2) re-articulating "cultural" competency in structural terms; (3) observing and imagining structural interventions; and (4) developing structural humility. We hope participants of the working group will curate the skills needed for a critical and structurally competent non-oppressive engagement with global health work. This working group is appropriate for graduate students from all disciplines who have an interest in topics germane to global health. We hope to build a diverse and interdisciplinary group of people who are passionate about global health but may find themselves at odds with the uncritical and depoliticized nature of the field and to address effectively the complex issues of our field that cut across countries and socioeconomic divides. Global health leaders need to develop cultural pertinence and structural competency that are grounded in an historically and politically-situated understanding of global health.  *[LMICs: Low- and Middle-Income Countries]
    Contact: Yadu Raveendran  |  yadurshini.raveendran@duke.edu
  • Forest Elephant
    The Forest Elephant Working Group is a diverse group of Duke and international students, researchers, and faculty focused on applied research to aid in the conservation of this rapidly disappearing charismatic species and to better understand the ecological roles played by forest elephants. Meeting biweekly, we discuss the available scientific literature, analyze GPS and field-collected data, as well as produce both reports for the Gabonese government and academic journal articles to share our findings. This year we will be focusing on literature surrounding human-elephant conflict and conservation policy related to forest elephants.
    Website: https://www.tropicalecology.us/megaherbivore-ecology
    Contact: Amelia Meier  |  amelia.meier@duke.edu
  • Global Mental Health Coalition
    The Global Mental Health Coalition is an interdisciplinary graduate and professional student working group at Duke University. Our group houses a community of research scholars, practitioners, educators, and providers who explore issues related to mental Health across all populations, locally and globally. It seeks to facilitate cross-disciplinary discussion and collaborations that explore the scientific, political, economic, environmental, and sociocultural frameworks of mental illness and mental health.
    Contact: Sreeja Kalapurakkel  |  sreeja.kalapurakkel@duke.edu
  • Global Perspectives on Artisanal & Small-Scale Gold Mining
    We are a diverse group of Duke graduate students studying various aspects of artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), which is a major contributor to global mercury pollution. Airborne mercury is able to travel long distances and is eventually deposited on the Earth's surface through wet and dry deposition, where it contaminates soil, water and crops. Once in waterways, it bio-accumulates in fish, leading to chronic long-term exposure that can cause serious health effects. ASGM is the number one source globally of atmospheric mercury and is conducted worldwide across 70 countries. Members of this group work in different regions of the world, and our monthly meetings are a platform to connect the dots between our individual areas of research to build cross-continental research synergies.
    Website: https://peruviangold.weebly.com/
    Contact: Reshma Nargund  |  rn88@duke.edu
  • Graduates Engineering & Researching Microbiomes (GERM)
    Our working group brings together students from a wide array of academic backgrounds to examine complex microbial communities ("microbiomes"). This collective is comprised mainly of students from engineering, biology and statistics, though all are welcome. Through monthly meetings, this group strives to improve cross-departmental collaboration for microbiome research, while also providing a forum for Duke researchers to trouble-shoot obstacles, internally peer-review ongoing projects, and learn new methods of analyzing microbiomes. Additionally, speakers from industry are invited to discuss how they are using and exploring microbiomes outside of academia.
    Contact: Alex McCumber  |  awm27@duke.edu
  • Informed Choices for Equitable Development
    Informed Choices for Equitable Development is a working group focused on discussion, debate and gaining a deeper understanding of issues in international development. We bring together PhD students from multiple disciplines who work in this field and give them a platform through which to share their work and learn new skills. We focus on some of the most pressing issues of our world today: maternal and child health, migration, racial inequality, foreign aid policy, and the environment.
    Contact: M'Balou Camara  |  mbalou.camara@duke.edu
  • Marxist Initiative
    The Marxist Initiative is an interdisciplinary working group aimed at providing both graduate and undergraduate students the opportunity collaboratively to foster a foundational comprehension of key Marxist concepts. Open to students with any level of experience, we meet once a week to discuss classical Marxist texts and to host public panel discussions on various topics of contemporary interest. 
    Contact: Chris Culton  |  christian.culton@duke.edu
  • Moving Aesthetics of Empire
    As concepts, "empire" and "colony" evoke visions of order, discipline, domination, and hierarchy. One of the crucial ways that societies institute and critique these formations is through visual language: the livery of colonial dress, imposing administrative architecture, and the sweeping visions of imperial landscape painting. Further, imperialists and colonial subjects alike narrate the experience of empire using a variety of media from limericks to ethnographies. Yet it was film that married visual language to narrative symbolism, bringing the political and affective qualities of empire home to a global community. This group investigates global constructions of empire and colonialism in film, comparing and analyzing how artists across genres and regions enforce, narrate and critique imperial structures and their memory.
    Contact: Vivien Rendleman  |  vr72@duke.edu
  • Ocean Policy
    The Ocean Policy Working Group aims to facilitate cross-disciplinary discussions and collaborations that explore the political, economic, scientific, and cultural dimensions of human interactions with the ocean. Our activities examine current issues involving the global oceans and the impact of these issues on marine policy and ocean governance. We strive to relate to an audience beyond those that directly study the coast. The OPWG seeks to accomplish its goals by hosting seminars, an annual Spring symposium, producing an online publication, film screenings, and other opportunities for its members to gather and discuss relevant issues pertaining to the oceans.
    Website: https://sites.duke.edu/opwg/
    Contact: Jack Eynon  |  john.eynon@duke.edu
  • Post-Colonial Racial Oppression in Africa: Ethnic Discrimination, Political Oppression, Crime, and African-on-African Violence
    History unfortunately stripped the African people of the opportunity to build their nations on their own indigenous values, institutions and heritage. The modern African continental makeup is the product of European influence. Today, virtually every African conflict has some ethno-regional dimensions to it. Our working group aims to explore the history of racial, ethnic and political oppression in Africa, the various reformation efforts currently being undertaken, the effectiveness of these efforts, and their impacts on social, political and economic growth in Africa.
    Contact: Oluwadamilola Lawal  |  ool2@duke.edu
  • Slavery, War & Gender
    The Working Group on Slavery, War & Gender was founded to support the critical exploration of black women's history in the Atlantic World during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As a graduate student-led group, members read a wide variety of texts in the fields of History, African/African American Studies and Gender/Sexuality/Feminist Studies and discuss different methodological approaches to studying black women in various historical, political, social, and economic contexts. Our working group also invites emerging and senior scholars from across the US in the humanities and social sciences to present their scholarship. Furthermore, members are allowed to workshop essays, articles and dissertation chapters among peers. Membership is open to all graduate students enrolled in the Duke University's Graduate School, as well as graduate programs at other Triangle area universities.
    Contact: Kristina Williams  |  kaw65@duke.edu