Duke Undergraduate Working Group on MENA


Highlights from students in Duke’s Undergraduate Working Group in MENA at the John Hope Franklin Center’s weekly Wednesdays at the Center series.

Josh Curtis and Bryan Rusch will lead a roundtable discussion with six students who participated in DukeEngage in Lebanon, and Duke in the Arab World (Morocco) in the summer of 2017. A moderated discussion will include topics such as classroom study vs. real-life experience, the people of MENA, cultural encounters, food, and lessons upon returning home. These rich and diverse experiences make Duke a unique hub of learning and engagement in the affairs of the MENA region.

Bryan Rusch is a sophomore majoring in Mechanical Engineering and International Comparative Studies with a focus in the Middle East. Rusch was part of the Middle East and Islam in the Global Context Focus group his freshman year and participated in Duke in the Arab World this past summer. He plans on continuing his engagement with the region his entire life and is hoping to work in the region after college.

Josh Curtis is a junior studying Economics and Arabic. Curtis spent every college summer at Duke in the Middle East as he aspired to devote his life to working in the region. Josh is the co-president of J Street U Duke, an Israel/Palestine advocacy group on campus, and a former senator in Duke Student Government.

inTransit Workshop looks at Art and Migration around Europe

On February 1st, 2018, academics and artists from around the globe gathered at Duke University for the inTransit: Arts & Migration around Europe workshop. The workshop focused on two themes, “Reversible Patterns: Historical and Contemporary Views from Spain, Northern African and the Middle East” and “Northwards across the Grain of Time: France, Flanders and the Lowlands, West Africa”.

James Amelang, Ph.D. and E. Michael Gerli, Ph.D. presented on the 16th-century expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain. In the videos below, both professors comment on how Spanish history can plan a role in the migration crisis happening in Spain today. Amelang is Professor of History in the Department of Early Modern History at the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain. His research focuses on early modern urban social history with a specialization on Barcelona. Gerli is Common Wealth Professor of Spanish at the University of Virginia. Gerli’s research explores medieval and renaissance literature and linguistics.

The inTransit research group strives to bridge ideological divides and contribute to current debates on migration in major regions of the globe where Romance languages are spoken.




Blackness Unmoored

by Angela Griffe

As part of the Wednesday at the Center series, the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies welcomed Dr. Daphne Lamothe to speak about “blackness unmoored” through an analysis of the lyrics and music video for the song,”Formidable” by Belgian musician, Stromae.


The John Hope Franklin Center and the Humanities Writ Large program co-hosted the event, which focused on the displacement of black bodies, and how this is represented in art. Lamothe explored the dialectic between the “interior” black being with exterior spatial and social relations, arguing that “Formidable” represents an “unmoored” and displaced black body set “adrift in the European Union’s capital.”

Lamothe Questions

Using video angles that invoke a feeling of spying or staring, Stromae implicates the viewer in observing the unbelonging of his “disorderly black body” in a public space. Lamothe notes the white gaze is both practiced by and reflected back onto the viewers via a sense of unfamiliarity and disorientation. Lamothe argues that this interrogation of blackness in a public arena is a form of structural violence in displacing and erasing black being. By exploring the identity of the black migrant and critiquing the white gaze, Stromae is making visible black life. Stromae’s “Formidable” is an example of the new black aesthetic in a post

Stromae’s “Formidable” is an example of the new black aesthetic in a post-soul age. By challenging European hostility towards black migrant consciousness, Lamothe argues that Stromae is opposing the idea that “formidability is some property of whiteness.”

Duke MFA Students Open DMZ Exhibit

On Thursday, February 15th, 2018 the John Hope Franklin Center and the Asian Pacific Studies Institute hosted an opening reception for “Looking North” a collaborative multimedia exhibition by Danny Kim (MFAEDA ’18) and Peter Lisignoli (MFAEDA ’13). The exhibit will be on display until March 30th, 2018.

Kim Addresses Audience

Danny Kim addresses the crowd.

“Looking North” documents the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the border between North and South Korea. The exhibit shows the bucolic landscape of the 38th parallel juxtaposed against museums, gift shops, and amusement parts.

Lisignoli’s created this work during his second visit to the DMZ area. The experience left him with a feeling of displacement. Kim, a native Seoul-born Korean citizen who served in the military was struck by the oddity of the DMZ theme park where tourists looked longingly through the telescopes across the Imjin River, fascinated by the neighboring country, after more than six decades of separation.

Attendees of the “Looking North” reception has a chance to interact with Kim about the work.

Danny Kim Discusses Work

Danny Kim discusses his work.

Tainan, City Pluriferent

Highlights from David Liu’s talk at the John Hope Franklin Center’s weekly Wednesdays at the Center series.

This talk is a Sebaldian exercise in narrating Professor Liu’s native city “from the outside.” Playing with Gilles Deleuze’s notions of the virtual/actual and exo-/endo-consistency, Liu will weave a diegetical tapestry of that city through its wealth of (trans)historical vectors to/from all over the world. These vectors also give occasions for tangents and excursuses by which to meditate on the porous MULTIPLICITY of such a locale as its myriad relations equally external and internal. This is what Professor Liu wants to show of Tainan’s “pluriference.”

What such a differential web of ties presents is an exo-consistency of lines and surfaces sutured to an endo-consistency, the virtual with the actual, in a perforated spatio-temporality. That, in turn, suggests a new way of discerning the ontology of cities no less than other things. Of Tainan itself, we might say that its complex profile intones not simply the resurgent Phoenix City of its sobriquet, but of a floating abode, ever extending and renovating its pluriference.

David Liu is a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Religious Studies, where he also received his PhD before teaching at NCSU and back at Duke. Before coming to Durham, David also spent time learning and researching in Tokyo, Rome and Jerusalem. His work ranges from theory of religion, Continental and transcultural philosophy, to aesthetics and critical new media studies.

Turning to Political Violence

Forensic psychiatrist and government counterterrorism consultant, Marc Sageman outlines his most recent book, “Turning to Political Violence”(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017).

Sageman visited Duke University on January 22, 2018, to present, “The Emergence of Terrorism: A New Paradigm” as part of the Bass Connections project “Networks of Cooperation and Conflict in the Middle East: within the Information, Society & Culture theme.

Read more about Sageman’s visit to campus in the Duke Today article, “Why People Join Terrorist Groups”.

Mental Health in Haiti

by Angela Griffe

As part of the Wednesday at the Center series, the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies welcomed Dr. Bonnie Kaiser to speak about the importance of integrating local culture and language to improve mental health care in Haiti.

The John Hope Franklin Center and the Global Mental Health Initiative at Duke Global Health Institute hosted the packed event which focused on what the field of anthropology can contribute to global health research. Kaiser focused on the importance of accepting local cultural models of mental illness in relation to communication and measurement, care-seeking behavior, and understanding misfortune.

Kaiser advocated for researchers and mental health professionals to utilize local “idioms of distress,” such as reflechi tròp, or “thinking too much” rather than biomedical terms. Integrating these idioms into mental health screenings makes for more accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Kaiser in the front of a room

Dr. Kaiser field questions from the crowd. photo by Angela Griffe

Kaiser also stressed the importance of Vodou priests and the Catholic Church as common sources of care and treatment. Many Haitians believe mental illness is the result of “sent spirits,” and as such, turn to religion rather than medical care.

Mental health care is “too focused on singular clinical settings,” Kaiser concluded, and professionals and researchers need to focus more on how social inequality and structural violence affect the way mental illness should be viewed and treated.