2021-2022 Graduate Working Groups on Global Issues

  • Africa and the Brain Drain Phenomenon: Is there an Alternative?
    Brain drain is defined as the emigration of highly skilled people from a particular country. In the case of the continent of Africa, brain drain has involved emigration of educated Africans to mainly Europe and the United States.  A 2016 report by the International Monetary Fund predicted that migrants from sub-Saharan Africa in OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and development – consisting of major developed countries) could increase from  7 million in 2013 to almost 34 million by 2050. The emigration of highly skilled workers presents not only an economic burden to African countries, but also welfare losses, as is evidenced by emigration of doctors and nurses from countries like Malawi and Zimbabwe.  Given the social and economic impacts of brain drain in Africa,  and provided the fact that, we as Duke African Graduate and Professional Student Association (DAGPSA) students at Duke might be contributing to the phenomenon, we aim to explore in depth the phenomenon of brain drain. We hope to discuss its social and economic impacts, as well as identify some practical alternatives or solutions that could mitigate its impact.
    Contact: Jovita Byemerwa | jovita.byemerwa@duke.edu   
  • Community-Guided Outreach for Primate Conservation

    Science outreach and communication are critical to the long-term success of primate research and conservation projects. The Community-Guided Outreach for Primate Conservation Working Group will build on existing and ongoing research efforts by identifying opportunities for primate conservation science communication in the Madre de Dios Region of Peru. We will first bring together a Community Advisory Board (CAB) to consult and co-create science outreach opportunities in the region. We will then work with our CAB and other community partners to iteratively implement the collaboratively designed outreach program. Studies have shown that projects which include community members in the creation of methods, data collection, and the dissemination of information; have a higher chance of integration and uptake of more sustainable policies that outlive the scope and timelines of the scientific project. Including CAB members means that our research project will include the voices of affected communities, which is a cornerstone of sustainability and equitable research practices.
    Contact: Anna Nordseth | anna.nordseth@duke.edu

  • Global Environmental Humanities    
    The rise of the Environmental Humanities in the age of anthropogenic climate change and a pandemic signals a number of challenges and possibilities for humanists, humanistic social scientists, and artists. While natural scientists and policymakers have engaged with the uncertainties surrounding the present moment, the ever-impending sense of global crisis has come to the forefront in the humanities and social sciences as well. How do we situate these challenges and possibilities while critically reflecting on the pasts and futures of thinking about the environment—human and non-human—on the global and planetary scales? Where do we locate the Global South within these movements, and how do we bear witness to the links between the changing climate and the social, political, cultural, economic, and aesthetic issues we have been more used to attending to, in our disciplines? While posing these broad questions, this working group will offer opportunities to engage with scholarship and creative works that tie to these themes, and open up debates around working through ideas and methods that cut across disciplinary boundaries.
    Contact: Archit Guha | archit.guha@duke.edu      
  • Indigenous and Local Knowledge in Sustainable Development        
    This working group will focus on the importance of integrating indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) in global sustainable development initiatives. Through lectures with indigenous and local leaders, experts in academia, government officials, and practitioners in the field of development, the working group will engage questions of current challenges, promises, theory, methodological frameworks, policies, and more, to further discourse on the topic. By connecting the dots across a range of academic disciplines, the group will raise awareness for engaging ILK in programming and policy.
    Contact: Margaret Poulos | margaret.poulos@duke.edu    
  • Informed Choices for Equitable Development (InChED)       
    Informed Choices for Equitable Development (InChED) is a graduate student working group that, since 2015, has worked to bring together theories and methods from different disciplines to study issues relevant to global development policy. InChED will continue to pursue four core goals:(1) create an environment where students can develop and receive peer feedback on new research ideas focused on policies to reduce inequality or improve standards of living among different populations of interest, (2) identify and evaluate the distributional impacts of development policies, laws, and regulation by making meaningful assessments of improvements to human well-being at the different socio-economic levels, and (3) promote discussion of contemporary development research related to context-specific inequality (4) provide opportunities to share knowledge and tools to learn about contemporary survey, analytic, and programming methods relevant to inequality-related research across disciplines. 
    Contact: Nikita Kohli | nikita.kohli@duke.edu          
  • Malagasy Language and Culture Working Group      
    Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot famed for high levels of endemism, yet the island’s unique biodiversity is threatened by habitat destruction for logging and mining, hunting, and biological invasions. Language is one of the four key barriers to global biodiversity conservation, so learning local languages is critical for graduate students working in Madagascar. Malagasy is the primary language and will be most useful for conducting effective and culturally competent research. We propose a Malagasy language and culture study among an interdisciplinary student group that includes PhD and master’s students from the Biology, Ecology, and Evolutionary Anthropology, all of whom have current research interests in Madagascar and will be conducting fieldwork there in the future. We will meet every other week to practice language concepts and read relevant articles about research ethics in Madagascar. Every month, we will meet via Zoom with Madagascar-based researchers to learn field-specific vocabulary and share our perspectives on international, cross-cultural research. Funding from the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies will empower us to actively prepare for effective and ethical research in Madagascar once international travel is again permitted. We will also work towards bilingual research communication materials. Furthermore, we will build a community of Duke researchers interested in Madagascar, potentially leading to research collaborations.
    Contact: Camille DeSisto | camille.desisto@duke.edu         
  • Mental Health Across the Globe       
    Mental illnesses affect about 1 billion people globally; 1 in 4 people in the world suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition, 80% of whom reside in low- or middle-income countries, in which 76% have no access to mental health services or treatments.
    Global mental health (GMH) is an emerging multidisciplinary and intersectional movement focused on alleviating the burden of mental disorders and reducing disparities in accessing contextually relevant evidence-based treatments around the world. As this movement pulls together knowledge from psychiatry, cultural anthropology, implementation science, public health and many other disciplines, we need to effectively bridge these silos and establish shared language and goals for training cadres of emerging scholars and practitioners.
    As such, the overarching goals of our working group will be to: (1) form a multidisciplinary group of graduate trainees focused on global mental health from across Duke to learn, teach and share scholarly knowledge and skills together; (2) collaborate to research and articulate a shared vision of global mental health training at Duke (such as develop systematized curriculum) and, (3) develop programming initiatives to build internal capacity in Duke scholars and practitioners for advocacy and research in GMH.
    Contact: Srishti Sardana | srishti.sardana@duke.edu; Justin Rasmussen | justin.rasmussen@duke.edu; Mahgul Mansoor | mahgul.mansoor@duke.edu     
  • Middle East Studies Graduate Seminar         
    The Duke Middle East studies graduate seminar is run by graduate students and a four-member faculty oversight committee that changes each year. The seminar meets twice a month during the normal semester term. As there is no formal PhD program in Middle Eastern Studies at Duke, the group seeks to create a community of graduate students working on this area. We focus on inviting early-career scholars to share an in-progress or recently published piece of writing with us and discuss it, along with a little bit about their trajectory in academia as a whole and within the field of Middle East studies. The interdisciplinary nature of Middle East studies allows us to bring together a plethora of scholars from both within and outside of Duke and exposes students to the current state of the field. Furthermore, we seek to invite scholars who work in a variety of areas, eras, and methodologies, reflecting the breadth of Middle East studies as a field.
    Contact: Zeena Fuleihan | zeena.fuleihan@duke.edu