By Claudia Koonz

A tribal headman with wife and sons in 1963 in the Chitral region of Afghanistan. Photo courtesy Claudia Koonz.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Snippets of dialog quoted in this essay were drawn from letters the author wrote during her travels.

“20-Year US War Ending as It Began, With Taliban Ruling.” “5,200 US soldiers. 66,000 Afghani military personnel, 47,000 civilians killed.” The recent headlines brought memories of a tribal headman and his family in the Kalash valley in Chitral, Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan. The year was 1963. My friend Carol and I were 22 years old. While hitchhiking for five months through Asia, we heard opinions about America that policymakers apparently failed to hear.

While we were…


A rescue worker reaches into a NYPD squad car following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Courtesy of U.S. Library of Congress

By David H. Schanzer

This essay is part of the exhibition catalogue for “Post 9/11: The Evolution of American Law Enforcement,” at the National Law Enforcement Museum, Washington, D.C. The author served as Guest Curator for this exhibit.

There are many searing images of the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath.

The most iconic of all, to my mind, is the photo of the second plane about to crash into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, a millisecond before the lives of so many and the history of the globe is about to be changed. …


U.S. soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan in 2010. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense

By David H. Schanzer

The speed with which the Afghan government collapsed over the weekend after two decades of American investments was stunning. Yet the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was inevitable. The seeds of this defeat were sown in the flawed theory, crafted almost 20 years ago, that we could create a stable, democratic, reasonably competent government in a war-torn, deeply tribal country with a centuries-long history of resisting foreign intervention.

Of course, mistakes were made along the way. In the end, though, this assignment was simply a bridge too far, destined to end in chaos and tragedy.

To understand…


By Lane Scher

When a Chicago animal shelter deliberately released 1,000 feral cats earlier this year to control a rodent problem in the city, they may have unintentionally put a more desirable group of animals in harm’s way: songbirds. Domestic cats kill more than 2 billion birds each year, making them one of the largest human-caused threats to birds.

As birds face the challenges of a changing climate, habitat loss, and transcontinental migrations, we should protect them by keeping our cats indoors.

A shocking study published in 2019 showed that there are almost 3 billion fewer birds in North America…


Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series by the author exploring how teaching changed in the last year due to the pandemic. The first installment is available here.

I was losing sleep. With only a week to go before the start of spring semester I still hadn’t figured out how to re-imagine Cultural Anthropology 302 for pandemic times. Fieldwork Methods is one of my favorite courses to teach. Required of all cultural anthropology majors and popular among students from other departments as well, the course is a rigorous introduction to the core methodology anthropologists utilize in ethnographic…


The isolating nature of the pandemic provided an opportunity for introspection on the privilege that we have to study medicine during a time when students and faculty members challenge the paternalistic principles of this field. This has led to the movement of patient-centered care in which we must consider all aspects of the social determinants of health to improve the quality of care. After sitting through lectures on health inequities, students often feel discouraged because we do not receive solutions to addressing the problems we learn about. Medical education should move beyond acknowledging the institutional basis of health inequities. …


A Duke cultural anthropologist on navigating a very unusual school year

Editor’s note: This is the first of two diary entries by this author addressing teaching during the pandemic. The second is available here.

By Katya Wesolowski

Before the start of our Covid year, Duke Student Government wrote a letter to The Chronicle encouraging faculty to be flexible in schedules, assignments and grading so as to help alleviate the academic and mental health stress of the pandemic. Taking their request seriously, I experimented with a new exercise and a new approach to evaluation in my fall Medical Anthropology course.

The…


The pressure is mounting on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill regarding Nikole Hannah-Jones’ pending tenure decision. Hannah-Jones, a long-time New York Times columnist and Pulitzer and MacArthur “genius grant” winner, is eminently qualified for the journalism chair she had been offered at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is threatening a federal lawsuit because she was turned down for tenure in what appears to have been a political decision.

Tenure is one of the few real workplace protections Black women enjoy. It protects a scholar’s right to think, write and speak freely, even on controversial topics. For Black women, it…


Being pregnant behind bars is a nightmare beyond what most of us can imagine: in jails and prisons, pregnant women suffer severely inadequate medical care, serious health complications, and more. A new bill under consideration in North Carolina with bipartisan support could greatly improve those conditions. Yet the bill has a glaring omission: it is silent on the deplorable instances of forced sterilizations in our jails and prisons.

When I was 17, I started working with teenagers who were incarcerated in a youth detention center, forming lasting friendships over two years of visits bridged by letter-writing. Over the years, my…


The taboo about death has been changing recently — a rising “Death Awareness” movement has been helping to open up conversations about death and dying. “Death Cafes” allow people meet to discuss death in an open, friendly environment. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has also pressured us to consider death recently. Books written by those who are facing the end of life can help us think about what the last phase of life involves before we are thrust into the situation unexpectedly ourselves.

Thinking about dying is not merely philosophical; it is also practical. Memoirs of dying can get us talking about physician-assisted…

Duke University Opinion and Analysis

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