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 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…

My country is enduring unspeakable injustices. I hope the world is watching.

The author on a visit to Burma

By Thynn K. Thane

For the past three months, I have spent nearly every waking moment worried about events taking place thousands of miles away, in a country where I still have family and friends, but that feels increasingly desperate and isolated.

I was born and raised in Burma, sometimes known as Myanmar, and along with others in the Burmese diaspora around the world, I watched in disgust when on Feb. 1 the military staged a coup d’état that deposed a democratically elected government. I have been horrified…

(Click to hear the author read ‘Conflicting Emotions’)

Straight up — is this vaccine for real?

Can’t trust the government to tell the truth

Is it for ALL people — black, brown, and white

And every color in between?

I’m not an experiment, I’m not a guinea pig

Been down that road before

Don’t want to choose between the virus and vaccine

Life and death

I can live with a mask though would rather not

I can live with the constant worry though could do without

But can’t live without a job, a home, school for the kids, and food

On March 11, Mississippi became the most recent state to ban transgender participation in sports. North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Michigan, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama and Montana are considering similar legislation, to name a few. The goal of all these proposed laws is the same: to prevent transgender individuals from competing alongside their same gendered peers in team and individual sports.

Participation in team and individual sports promotes healthy behaviors that often last into adulthood. It encourages good psychosocial development, promoting collaborative leadership skills, social bonds and self-esteem. …

Editor’s note: This essay is one in a series of first-person narratives by members of the Duke community reflecting on a year living with COVID-19.

Last summer, I found myself preparing for a class I never expected to teach. The class, GSF 225: Women in the Political Process, is supported by a generous donation from Ruth Huffman Carr with the stipulation that it be taught every fall of an election year. …

Duke University Opinion and Analysis

Duke University is home to more than 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students and a world-class faculty helping to expand the frontiers of knowledge.

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