Fall 2019 – Wednesdays at the Center

Wednesdays at the Center (W@TC) is a topical weekly series in which scholars, artists, journalists, and others speak informally about their work in conversation with the audience. This semester the John Hope Franklin Center is proud to collaborate with partners across Duke and throughout the larger academic community to present a discipline diverse series.

Join us on Wednesdays throughout the semester from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm in the Franklin Center’s Ahmadiah Family Conference Hall, room 240. A light lunch is served at each event.


September 4, 2019 – Civil War Refugee Camps: Camp “Commandants” and Black Women and Children

with Thavolia Glymph, Ph.D., History Department, Duke University


September 18, 2019 – Conversations with Duke’s Religious Life Leaders

with Fr. Michael Martin, O.F.M. Conv., Duke Catholic Center


September 25, 2019 – Collecting the Web Collaboratively: Web Archiving and the Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation

with Samantha Abrams, Columbia University Libraries


October 2, 2019 – Black Arts, Black Muslims: Race, Religion, and Culture

with Ellen McLarney, Ph.D., Asian Middle Eastern Studies Department, Duke University


October 16, 2019- Conversations with Duke’s Religious Life Leaders

with Madhu Sharma, Ph.D., Duke Hindu Life


October 23, 2019- Ain’t I a Women Too? The Intersections of Race, Victimhood & Survivorship in Sexual Violence

with April-Autumn Jenkins, Duke Women’s Center


October 30, 2019- Intimate Communities: Wartime Healthcare and the Birth of Modern China, 1937-1945

with Nicole Barnes, Ph.D., History Department, Duke University


November 6, 2019- Non-academic Job Possibilities in Washington D.C. for Social Science Ph.D.s

with Andrew Stein, U.S. Department of State’s Office of Opinion Research


November 13, 2019- Why and When People See Immigrants as Threatening?

with Juris Pupčenok, Ph.D., Political Science Department, Marist College


November 20, 2019- Smart Archaeology: Uncovering Secrets beneath the Surface

with Maurizio Forte, Ph.D., Regis Kopper, Ph.D., Katherine McCusker, Duke University


December 4, 2019- Representing Migration through Digital Humanities

Charlotte Sussman, Ph.D., Duke University


Is That All Your Hair?

by Kelley Reardon

As part of the Wednesdays at the Center series, the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies welcomed Bibi Gnagno, J.D. for a conversation on her new documentary project, “Is That All Your Hair?”


The John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies (DUCIGS) sponsored this event, which discussed beauty in the context of identity, belonging, and power for African and African-American women. Bibi Gnagno is a graduate of Smith College with an M.A. in French Language and Civilization from New York University Graduate School of Arts and Science in Paris and a J.D. from North Carolina Central University. She is the founder and owner of a company called OMG I Love Your Hair and is now working on a documentary film focused on her experiences in western Africa, specifically Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast.


Gnagno was born in California, but she spent about twelve years of her life growing up on the Ivory Coast before her parents moved back to the U.S. When she returned to the Ivory Coast for a policy fellowship, she had mixed feelings about her identity. Would she be considered an insider or an outsider by the local people? Gnagno expected that more women would wear their hair natural in Ivory Coast, but in fact, she observed the opposite—most women there did not wear their hair natural. Instead, the local women followed trends that were “imported” from places like the United States and consumed media highlighting African-American women with straight hair.



Gnagno wanted to explore the power of beauty, especially hair, and how it related to women’s lives and access to resources in Ivory Coast. Since West Africa is run by a patriarchal system, Gnagno noticed that women there felt pressure to look good for men. In both the U.S. and the Ivory Coast, Gnagno observed women who felt they had to look a certain way to advance their career or gain acceptance from others. Gnagno also realized that capitalism played an important role in beauty standards. She noticed that this culture of commodity was built on a sense of losing one’s identity, urging people to buy products in order to look a certain way and feel a sense of belonging.


The idea that women could not be confident, comfortable, and accepting of themselves in their natural state bothered Gnagno. When she wore her hair natural on the Ivory Coast, women were constantly asking her, “is that all your hair?” They wanted to know how she styled it so well. Gnagno brought together groups of women and taught them how to style their natural hair with healthy products that were local to the Ivory Coast like shea and cocoa butter. Unfortunately, these products were hard to come by because so many were being exported to other countries. Yet, health was another major motivation for Gnagno—many women end up damaging their hair and scalps with products like hair relaxer, which is a chemical formula that can burn the skin if not used properly.


Gnagno’s definition of beauty has evolved, and she says that “beauty, for me, is character. As I’ve gotten older, looks fade… beauty is what’s on the inside, but a lot of times we don’t encounter that first.” Gnagno realizes that changing society’s perception of hair and beauty is a massive project, but that doesn’t stop her. She praises women in positions of high power who have chosen to make a statement by wearing their hair natural. Gnagno hopes to return to the Ivory Coast in the near future to create more content for her documentary so that she can share her film, “Is That All Your Hair?” with the world.

Crisis in the Andes: Why Venezuela is Different

by Kelley Reardon

As part of the Wednesdays at the Center series, Keith Mines to give a lecture named “Crisis in the Andes: Why Venezuela is Different”. Mines currently serves as Director of Andean Affairs in the State Department with responsibility for managing U.S. relations with Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.


The John Hope Franklin Center and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies co-hosted the event, which discussed what makes the Venezuelan crisis different from other crises.


During the 1970s oil was discovered, and Venezuela became one of the largest oil producers in the world. Mines spoke about how there have been political problems embedded in the Venezuelan government since the rise of oil production. Mines describes the current conflict as “one of the few crises in the world today that is completely unnecessary,” and as “a purely self-inflicted wound.”

Patrick Duddy and Keith Mines take questions from the audience.

Keith Mines and Patrick Duddy field questions from the audience.

Venezuela eventually succumbed to intense corruption, as Mines stated, “[there has been] no period in history where you have that much corruption, on that scale, by one entity.” Mines pointed out that it was “unprecedented” that so many Venezuelans fled the country despite its recent status as middle class. He also stated that it was “quite an inspiring case of other countries taking in the Venezuelans that have been fleeing.”


Venezuela’s government became so embedded with corruption that it now relies on its own dysfunctional economy as a requirement to maintain political control. Mines stated that it is “a system and web to keep as many people dependent on the government as possible.” Meanwhile, presidential controversies between different leaders such as Juan Guaidó (partially recognized interim President of Venezuela) and Nicolás Maduro (disputed President of Venezuela) contribute to the complexity of the situation.


Two main features that set Venezuela apart from other crises include its regional support and the fact that other countries are so willing to intervene. Another main feature is the role of American policy in the crisis. There is no American military involvement. The Venezuelan crisis will require time and patience to mend. Mines believes that “these things don’t last forever… it’s not a normal way to live for them or for anyone else.”

Visualizing the Muslim Gandhi

by Kelley Reardon

As part of the Wednesdays at the Center series, the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies welcomed Tim Dobe, Th.D. and Sumathi Ramaswamy, Ph.D. for a conversation on “Visualizing the Muslim Gandhi.”


The John Hope Franklin Center, Duke India Initiative, and Duke Islamic Center hosted the event, which discussed the connection of Gandhi to Islamic culture. Dr. Dobe is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Grinnell College and a current visiting fellow at the Duke Islamic Studies Center. Dr. Ramaswamy is a James B. Duke Professor of History and International Comparative Studies at Duke, Co-Director of Duke’s India Initiative, and President of the American Institute of Indian Studies.



Dr. Dobe discussed how there is often a focus on Gandhi’s Hinduism and western influence, but less attention on his ties to Muslim culture. In his earlier years, Gandhi was often depicted in art as “a man of the people,” and he was known to put immense effort into dressing appropriately to fit in with his surroundings. For instance, there are images of Gandhi in a suit while he was training to be a lawyer, and images of him in traditional Indian dress when he returned to India.


Furthermore, Dr. Dobe shared many works of Khwaja Hsan Nizami, who studied Gandhi and is known for his literary pieces. Nizami even predicted that Gandhi’s legacy would extent to the year 2050, when there would be a landscape of ethics and non-violence and nearly all Muslims would be vegetarian.


Dr. Ramaswamy shared artistic depictions of Gandhi later in life, when he would go without clothes and present himself nothing but a loin cloth. Artists depict this stage of Gandhi’s life in different ways—for instance, the modern Indian painter Maqbool Fida Husain did not shy away from painting Gandhi’s unclothed body. Meanwhile, Sayed Haidar Raza, who was also a modern Indian painter, rarely showed Gandhi in his paintings. Yet Raza’s work is still a reflection of his perspective on Gandhi.


As Ramaswamy explained, “there is no single way in which Muslim artists respond to Gandhi’s barely clothed body.” There was also the potential that artists were worried about allowing their faith to stand in the way of their art. However, the limitations that faith may have had on an artist’s work can be difficult to determine.

Deconstructing American Theater’s Great White Way


by Kelley Reardon

As part of the Wednesdays at the Center series, the John Hope Franklin Center welcomed a panel of theater experts to speak about incorporating minorities into American theater. The guests included Sophie Caplin, Onastasia Ebright, JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell, Lulla Kiwinda, Monét Marshall, Dr. Jules Odendahl-James, Maria Zurita Ontiveros, and Casey Pettiford.


The John Hope Franklin Center hosted the event, which focused on Black and Latinx spaces in theater. The panelists discussed what it is like to be a minority in theater and the challenges and hopes that they have for the field.


Lulla Kiwinda, Sophie Caplin, Jules Odendahl-James

Lulla Kiwinda, Sophie Caplin, Jules Odendahl-James


Panelists explained that when they direct a play, it is not simply a play— it is a message to the world. These artists want everyone to exist as more creative citizens. Monét Marshall said that if an audience member leaves the theater without a new “nugget” of perspective— such as a provoking idea, an interesting encounter with a new person, or meeting themselves in a new way— then she feels like her plays are not giving back to the community in the right way.


Onastasia Ebright stated that she has learned “not to wait for permission,” even on the Duke campus. She explained that she has to go out and work on her ideas if she wants to make them happen, by forming and maintaining committed relationships. The fact that Duke is a predominantly white campus can make it more challenging for diverse theater to emerge. When the play with an all-black cast called Once on This Island was first proposed, some people said that there were not enough talented people of color. However, a play like Once on This Island had never been done before and there was no prior experience to back up excuses like not enough talent.



Even all-black casts can be controversial. By separating out black shows from “everybody else” (white shows), black shows become a scarcity and black actors feel like it’s their only opportunity to be in a show. The panelists also warned about “token-ize”ing people- for instance, highlighting the one Black, Latinx, or woman actor in a show. Marshall recommended leaving behind this scarcity mindset and instead “leaning into abundance.”


Marshall said that she creates work for her future self. People from other backgrounds can come, but they don’t have to come. She sticks to what brings her joy, and encourages younger artists to not carry the emotional work of catering to a white audience. Bridging the gap between black and white audiences will require hard work and a commitment to relationships of value and acceptance from both sides.

Dancing from the Inside/Out

by Kelley Reardon

As part of the Wednesday at the Center series, the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies welcomed internationally acclaimed Canadian dancer and choreographer Margie Gillis to give a lecture called “Dancing from the Inside/Out”.

The John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke Dance Department co-hosted the event, in which Gillis discussed her experiences with dance throughout her life, including her career as a dancer and her role as a teacher of conflict resolution through movement. Gillis also talked about her dance company, the Margie Gillis Foundation.

Gillis grew up in an extraordinarily athletic family with two Olympic skiers as parents and a brother in the National Hockey League (NHL). At age 8, she experienced a nervous breakdown due to multiple unexpected changes in her personal life. To overcome this challenging time, Gillis learned to reintegrate herself from the inside, out. She turned to dance as a form of expression. Dance taught Gillis to move “through” life’s obstacles with both physical and emotional dexterity.


Margie Gillis quote




From being the first artist to bring modern dance to China in 1979 after the Cultural Revolution to performing in tours all over the globe, Gillis has gained a unique perspective of the world. She sees dance as a universal form of communication, and is fascinated by the “limits of language,” yet the “clarity of physicality”. Gillis said, “I’m not really precious about [my identity], including my name,” and emphasized that she cares more about fluidity, community, and understanding.



All of Gillis’ work is “based on notions of health,” including both physical and mental health. Gillis’ mentorship in conflict resolution has changed many lives for the better. Gillis believes that “dance is devalued in many of the cultures of our society,” and she has experienced the strong transformative power of movement first-hand. Gillis has seen dance used as a method to bridge communities, heal trauma, and embrace character. She encourages others to interpret dance in a way that works best for them, and stated, “I find people miraculous, absolutely miraculous in their strategies… their challenges become their areas of strength.”

Geopolitics of Feminisms in Afghanistan

by Kelley Reardon

As part of the Wednesday at the Center series, the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies welcomed Jennifer Fluri, Ph.D. to give a lecture called “The Geopolitics of Feminisms in Afghanistan”.

The John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center co-hosted the packed event, which discussed the complexities of women’s rights in the Middle East. Fluri explored the differences and similarities between the three groups of government in Afghanistan- socialist/leftist, Islamic, and capitalist groups. 

Since the 1970’s, Afghanistan has gone through a tumultuous timeline of geopolitical events. Fluri explained that all of the groups that have come to power, from the Taliban to the U.S.-led invasion, have said that they want to “save Afghan women”. However, Fluri believes that the category called “Afghan women” is meaningless. Fluri believes it is meaningless due to the complexities and diversity of women in Afghanistan, from their religion, socioeconomic class, ethnicity, geographic location, and relationships with people in positions of power.

Fluri explained the cultural complexities of the burqa and that social pressures affect both men and women in Afghanistan. She said that there was an attempt to “re-train” Afghan women to think of beauty and lifestyle from a western perspective, led by Laura Bush. 


Fluri also shed light on the Islamic groups of the Middle East, which take two approaches to women’s rights. First, they often focus on the teachings of the Quran, which says that men and women are equal in the eyes of God. Second, they focus the Prophet’s first wife, with whom the Prophet had a monogamous relationship with before he was widowed. 

Although the public discourse about Islam in the U.S. is often a negative dialogue, Fluri advocates for using local religious values as an approach to support women’s rights. In this way, less foreign intervention is necessary. Foreign organizations have a history of exploiting Afghanistan women, despite claims that they want to “save” them. Therefore, working with current religious values gives Afghan women the opportunity to cultivate power in their homes and communities. This power at a local level is foundational for further progress of women’s rights and feminism.

Double Bind: Women of Color in STEM

by Kelley Reardon

Duke University’s Center for International and Global Studies welcomed Ruthie Lyle, Ph.D. on February 6th, 2019 to discuss the challenges faced by minority women in the science, technolog, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in a Wednesdays at the Center lecture. Lyle focused on the advantages, challenges, and future outlook for minority women in STEM.

Lyle is an engineer, innovator, and entrepreneur who has had to overcome a double bind while navigating her career. Lyle defines the double bind as the unique challenges minority women face as they simultaneously experience sexism and racism in their STEM experience.

Scientists and engineers working in S&E: 2015

Lyle shared her experiences as a doctoral student and a professional. She cited statistics from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to relay her message. Graphs revealed extremely low numbers of minorities and women in science and engineering, where (according to NSF) white men make up 49% of the professionals.

Lyle also emphasized the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley, one of the largest incubators for new technology businesses today. “This is not a women’s issue or a minority women’s issue in isolation, nor will it command a solution exclusively presented by said groups alone,” said Lyle. She knows that there are minority women with excellent STEM skills, and that those women need access to more opportunities.

Lyle recommends various strategies for retention and success in supporting minority women in STEM. These strategies include academic preparation, successful role models, supportive and diverse environments, satisfying work, social and community engagement, and diversified faculty in academia. Lyle emphasized the most important strategy: to “reach back and pull up,” to help younger generations.

Spring 2019 – Wednesdays at the Center

Wednesdays at the Center (W@TC) is a topical weekly series in which scholars, artists, journalists, and others speak informally about their work in conversation with the audience. This semester the John Hope Franklin Center is proud to collaborate with partners across Duke and throughout the larger academic community to present a discipline diverse series.

Join us on Wednesdays throughout the semester from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm in the Franklin Center’s Ahmadiah Family Conference Hall, room 240. A light lunch is served at each event.

January 23rd – 
The Economic History of the Rise of Trumpism
with John Komlos, Ph.D. 

January 30th-
Research Africa Network:  Opportunities and Challenges
with John Bartlett, M.D., Madison Cullinan, Mbaye Lo, Ph.D.

February 6th-
Double Bind: Women of Color in STEM
The Social, Ethical and Economic Impact
with Ruthie D. Lyle, Ph.D.

February 13th-
Geopolitics of Feminisms in Afghanistan
with Jennifer Fluri, Ph.D.

February 20th-
Deconstructing American Theater’s Great White Way
with Sophie Caplin, Onastasia Ebright, JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell, Lulla Kiwinda, Monét Marshall, Jules Odendahl-James, Ph.D., Casey Pettiford, Maria Zurita Ontiveros

February 27th-
Dancing from the Inside/Out
with Margie Gillis

March 6th-
Crisis in the Andes: Why Venezuela is Different
with Keith W. Mines

March 20th-
Visualizing the Muslim Gandhi
with Tim Dobe, Ph.D., & Sumathi Ramaswamy, Ph.D.

March 27th-
Common Interests – Diverse Perspectives: 2018-19 Graduate Working Groups on Global Issues
with members of the Global Graduate Working Groups

April 3rd-
Is That All Your Hair?
with Bibi Gnagno, J.D.

April 10th-
Political Islam, Justice and Governance
with Mbaye Lo, Ph.D.

April 17th-
Shakespeare in the Arab World
with Abdul Sattar Jawad, Ph.D.

Millennial Capitalism: Global Perspectives – Spring 2019

Course Number: CULANTH 530S

Course Attributes: CCI, CZ, R, SS

Course Description:

This course historicizes the conditions under which a specific form of capitalism emerges; one primarily focused on financialization and debt. Students begin by looking to the inception of market capitalism in the Atlantic world accounting for its cultural logics: How race and racism operate in tandem with capital; the significance of the slave trade and the institution of slavery; the fact of empires and peripheries; and the centrality of gender to private property relations. The course concludes with an inquiry into those new forms of work and corollary forms of alienation that define the digital age.

Anne-Maria MakhuluFaculty Biography:

Anne-Maria Makhulu is an Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology and African and African American Studies and Core Faculty in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Duke University. Her research interests cover: Africa and more specifically South Africa, cities, space, globalization, political economy, neoliberalism, the anthropology of finance and corporations, as well as questions of aesthetics, including the literature of South Africa. Makhulu is co-editor of Hard Work, Hard Times: Global Volatility and African Subjectivities (2010) and the author of Making Freedom: Apartheid, Squatter Politics, and the Struggle for Home (2015). She is a contributor to Producing African Futures: Ritual and Reproduction in a Neoliberal Age (2004), New Ethnographies of Neoliberalism(2010), author of articles in Anthropological Quarterly and PMLA, special issue guest editor for South Atlantic Quarterly (115(1)) and special theme section guest editor for Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (36(2)). A new project, South Africa After the Rainbow (in preparation), examines the relationship between race and mobility in postapartheid South Africa.