Cycles in Foreign Service

The Honorable Brian Nichols answers a question about the current trends in the foreign service.

Nichols was the 2018 Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, Jr. Lecturer on International Studies. He gave his lecture, “For Reasons Which Are Not Immediately Clear: Foreign Policy in a Time of Uncertainty” on March 27, 2018.

Ambassador Nichols is former US Ambassador to Peru. In addition, he was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics Law (INL) Enforcement Affairs, directing INL programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Europe, and Asia. Other international posts have included US embassies in El Salvador, Mexico, Colombia, and Indonesia, as well as oversight of programs in the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

Alsarah visits with Duke students

Alsarah of Alsarah and the Nubatones visited with Duke students during her artist residency with Duke Performances. She met with students from Refugee Lives (AMES 320S, DOCST 321S) and Strategic Storytelling (PUBPOL 646S) to discuss her influences and her personal migration story.



Drivers of Global Change with Thomas A. Shannon Jr.


Thomas A. Shannon Jr., undersecretary of state for political affairs, spoke at Duke University on Thursday, Feb. 1 on the current state of the foreign policy. This video clip outlines the four factors driving global change.

Shannon’s talk, “Buckle Up: Global Foreign Policy Trends and American Diplomacy,” was hosted by the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies, the Duke University Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Duke University Program in American Grand Strategy.

Arturo Schomburg and the Jim Crow South

This story was featured on Duke’s Council on Race and Ethnicity,

Written by Camille Jackson

On Wednesday, Vanessa K. Valdés of The City College of New York, presented her research on Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, whose personal collection became the foundation for the Harlem-based and world-renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Valdés is the author of “Diasporic Blackness: The Life and Times of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg,” only the second full-length biography.

During her talk, “Building an International Archive in the Jim Crow South: Arturo Schomberg at Fisk University,” Valdés highlighted the collector’s global vision for his collection as well as the importance of access to the material.

The lunchtime talk was the latest installment of “Wednesdays at the Center,” held at the John Hope Franklin Center, which features a different speaker each week throughout the semester.

Valdés, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese, said that Schomburg, a Black Puerto Rican, helped establish Fisk University’s Africana collection in Nashville, now named the John Hope and Aurelia Franklin Library.

“Most have no idea about the man himself,” said Valdés, who pursued her graduate degree in Nashville. There is only one biography of Schomburg and it was published in 1989, she said.

Valdés and Neal

The Carnegie Foundation bought Schomburg’s personal collection for $10k which he used to travel across Europe and further develop his collection. However, he donated much of his work without compensation.

In Nashville, Thomas E. Jones was president of Fisk when Schomburg began assembling the library in 1929. He worked alongside his good friend, sociologist Charles S. Johnson, to replicate what he had accomplished in New York, building a black archive in Fisk University’s Cravath Hall, complete with a reading room.

“At the time, black people were steered toward vocational schools and not necessarily reading for pleasure,” Valdés said. Under Schomburg, Fisk established a reading room to “inculcate a desire” in students to read for pleasure.

“Being an active member of society meant being knowledgeable. He was creating spaces of liberation,” Valdés said. Schomburg spoke through his collection, highlighting moments of black independence and responding to U.S. hegemony in the Caribbean.

The Fisk collection concentrated on presence of people of African descent internationally, taking on a global character, telling the story of blacks in Europe and the Caribbean. There were 140 books when Schomburg arrived and more than 4,000 by the time he left Fisk. His efforts were not replicated at other schools until decades after his death, she said.

Johnson, the first black president of Fisk, acknowledged Schomburg’s “generosity and foresight” in curating books for the university’s then-named Race Relations Institute.

“Johnson was trying to get Schomburg to write his book but he wasn’t interested in that. He only wanted to disseminate his work,” Valdés said. “It’s important to consider different modes of scholarship and knowledge production. Establishing the collection, made it unequivocal that black folks were worthy of study and international analysis.”

The event was sponsored by the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship at Duke.

Video – Virtual Reality in the Arabic Classroom at Duke

Highlights from a panel’s conversation as part of the John Hope Franklin Center’s weekly Wednesdays at the Center series.


Panelists: Elizabeth Evans, Chip Bobbert, Leah Rothfeld, Thatcher Owen, and Maha Houssami

This panel will describe what 360 video is and how it’s recorded, including some of the cameras you can use to capture an immersive experience to share a vacation memory or a family event. You will also learn about a project funded by the Duke Digital Initiative (DDI) and executed with the support of AMES, CIT and OIT and Duke Engage in Lebanon and Jordan exploring the use of 360 video in teaching and learning Arabic at Duke. 360 video captures scenery and action from all sides and, in some cases, from above and below, too!

Elizabeth A. (Libby) Evans manages the Duke Digital Initiative (DDI) at Duke University. The DDI is a collaboration between the central IT group and Duke’s Learning Innovation. DDI is charged with exploring new and emerging technologies as they might be used in teaching and learning including drones, motion tracking,virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D video, 360 degree video, lightboards, and more.

Chip Bobbert, Digital Media & Emerging Technologies Engineer, manages Duke’s two specialty labs—the Multimedia Project Studio and Innovation Studio—within the university’s Software and Lab Services group.

Leah Rothfeld is a senior from Florida majoring in International Comparatives Studies, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies on the Arabic language track and minoring in Economics.

Thatcher Owen is a senior Mechanical Engineering and Arabic double major from Yorktown, Virginia. He studied ten semesters of Arabic at Duke University and with Boston University abroad in Rabat, Morocco.

Maha Houssami is an Arabic language lecturer at the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies department since October 2011. Maha is also the Faculty Fellow for Duke Engage in Jordan and the faculty advisor of INJAZ, a student-run volunteer organization in which students meet weekly with local refugees from Arabic speaking countries for language and cultural exchange.

Blood Letters Highlight Video

Highlights from Professor Xi Lian’s talk as part of the Wednesdays at the Center series at the John Hope Franklin Center.

“Blood Letters” is the first authoritative biography of Lin Zhao, a poet and journalist executed in 1968 at the height of the Cultural Revolution. The only Chinese citizen known to have openly and steadfastly opposed communism under Mao, she rooted her dissent in her Christian faith and expressed it in long prophetic writings done in her own blood, at times on her clothes and on cloth torn from her bed sheets. Miraculously, Lin Zhao’s prison writings survived, though they have only recently come to light. Drawing on these works and others from the years before her arrest, as well as interviews with her friends, her classmates, and other former political prisoners, Xi Lian tells the story of a young woman whom the late Noel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo called “the only voice of freedom left for contemporary China”.

Xi Lian is a Professor of World Christianity at Duke University’s Divinity School. Professor Lian’s research is focused on China’s modern encounter with Christianity. His first book, The Conversion of Missionaries (1997), is a critical study of American Protestant missions against the backdrop of rising Chinese nationalism in the early twentieth century. His second book, Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China (2010), winner of the 2011 Christianity Today Book Award, examines the development of missionary Christianity into a vibrant, indigenous faith of the Chinese masses. One of his current research projects looks beyond grassroots Christianity and examines the emergence of Protestant elites and their prominent, if also precarious, role in the search for civil society in today’s China.

This event is presented by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Asian Pacific Studies Institute.

Everyday Conversions: Attiya Ahmad

Highlights from Dr. Attiya Ahmad’s talk at the John Hope Franklin Center as part of our weekly Wednesdays at the Center series.


Why are domestic workers converting to Islam in the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf region? In this talk, Dr. Attiya Ahmad presents us with an original analysis of this phenomenon. Using extensive fieldwork conducted among South Asian migrant women in Kuwait, Ahmad argues domestic workers’ Muslim belonging emerges from their work in Kuwaiti households as they develop Islamic piety in relation—but not opposition—to their existing religious practices, family ties, and ethnic and national belonging. Their conversion is less a clean break from their preexisting lives than it is a refashioning in response to their everyday experiences. In examining the connections between migration, labor, gender, and Islam, Ahmad complicates conventional understandings of the dynamics of religious conversion and the feminization of transnational labor migration while proposing the concept of everyday conversion as a way to think more broadly about emergent forms of subjectivity, affinity, and belonging.

Dr. Attiya Ahmad is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at The George Washington University. Broadly conceived, her research focuses on the gendered interrelation of Islamic reform movements and political economic processes spanning the Middle East and South Asia, in particular, the greater Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean regions. Dr. Ahmad is a Ph.D. from Duke University and recently published her first book, “Everyday Conversions: Islam, Domestic Work and South Asian Migrant Women in Kuwait” (Duke University Press, 2017). Dr. Ahmad is currently examining the development of global halal tourism networks.

This event is presented by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center.

Africa’s ‘Scramble for Europe’

by Angela Griffe
As part of the Wednesday at the Center series, the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies and the Duke Africa Initiative welcomed Dr. Stephen Smith to speak about Africa’s changing “human geography.”


Smith addressed a packed room on how shifting African migration patterns are changing the European continent demographics. Comparing the colonial “scramble for Africa” to Africa’s current migration flows towards Europe, Smith asserts that Africa’s growing young middle-class will immigrate to Europe looking for economic prosperity.


Since the 1930s, Africa has seen the most significant population growth, the fastest urban growth, and the largest concentration of young people. As the population booms and young people migrate, Africa is seeing mass “rural exodus and urban drift.” Smith explained there is a “quest for modernity,” with young people, especially women, running away from oppressive social structures and seeking a better life.


Smith argues that there are three factors in African migration to Europe: global awareness, a preexisting diasporic community, and monetary resources. With many vibrant communities of Afro-Europeans already present, and a growing young middle class attuned to Western popular culture, the setting is ripe for mass migration.


By 2050, Smith estimates there will be 5 young Afro-Europeans (two of whom under the age of 15) to every aging European. Analyzing this migration pattern cannot be decided in a “void,” for borders are “spaces of negotiation.” Smith concluded that in the age of globalization and shifting demographics, there are winners and losers; but, “we will all be losers if the winners do not take care of the losers.”


Stephen W. Smith teaches African Studies at Duke University. Until 2013, Smith also held an adjunct lecturer position at John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC. Smith holds a Ph.D. in semiotics from Berlin’s Free University and is a graduate of the Anthropology department at the Sorbonne (Panthéon) in Paris.

Whose Anthropocene? Global South Perspectives on Environmental Crisis

Course Number: LATAMER 590S, CULANTH 590S, ENVIRON 590S

Course Attributes: CCI, EI, CZ, SS

Course Time: Thursdays, 4:40pm – 7:10pm

Course Description:

The Anthropocene is defined as the epoch in which human activity has matched the scale of geological processes and disturbed Earth’s thermodynamic balance. Beyond introducing unprecedented environmental crises, the Anthropocene has revealed the inadequacy of Western scientific disciplines to address such problems. In Anthropology and Environmental Studies, promising new forms of engagement with non-Western philosophies are occurring on both sides of the Atlantic. This seminar will address the contributions of Latin American, African, and Asian authors (and artists, shamans, and activists) to the Anthropocene debate.

Renzo TaddeiFaculty Biography:

Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Federal University of Saõ Paulo, Brazil, Dr. Taddei specializes in the anthropology of environment and climate. He is also affiliated with the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology at Columbia University.







Water and Society: Concepts and Controversies in Latin America – Fall 2018

Course Number: LATAMER 390, CULANTH 290, ENVIRON 390

Course Attributes: CCI, STS, CZ, SS

Course Time: Wednesdays, 4:40pm – 7:10pm

Course Description:

Water is central to the past, present, and future of humanity. Latin America has been and continues to be a place where some of the most important discussions on and events related to water and human societies occur. This course addresses the role of water in local societies, examines how environmental conflicts over water shape and reflect social and cultural diversity, and explores how water’s fate symbolizes future challenges for Latin America and the planet. This course studies water and society from several perspectives including:

  • cultural and political ecology
  • traditional environmental knowledge
  • technology and engineering
  • meteorology
  • international policy
  • arts, film, and literature

Renzo TaddeiFaculty Biography:

Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Federal University of Saõ Paulo, Brazil, Dr. Taddei specializes in the anthropology of environment and climate. He is also affiliated with the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology at Columbia University.






LATAMER 390 Poster