Each year, the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute awards students interested in developing, implementing and working in human rights with funding for summer research. This grant typically supports domestic and international travel, but due to COVID-19, students will only be conducting remote research this summer. This year’s recipients include five undergraduates and one graduate student with projects ranging from water and sanitation access in Egypt and Sudan to environmental injustices in U.S. prisons. Students will also explore eugenics and reproductive rights in North Carolina, access to healthcare for African migrants in Italy, and water desalination governance in Southern California. For more information about each recipient and to follow their research this summer, please visit the Human Rights Research Grant page.

Sama Elmahdy (’22) and Hadeel Hamoud (’22) plan to map the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure in Egypt and Sudan, and examine how, if at all, organizations are expanding access WASH in an attempt to alleviate COVID-19 impacts. Their study will be used to offer guidance for supporting sustainable and resilient peace-building efforts through illustrating the connections between WASH and peacebuilding. The project will build on the Mapping WASH and COVID-19 in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) team’s recent work to track the spread and impact of COVID-19 cases and vaccinations in the MENA region.

Isaiah Mason (’22) aims to investigate the barriers and facilitators to accessing the public healthcare system throughout Italy. As an ethnography, the project will incorporate participant stories as data to understand the degree of healthcare access that exist, and potential resources needs within communities. Additionally, the project will investigate the concept of community organization for African migrants to develop a better understanding of migratory patterns and integration into Italian society. The primary output for the project will be an honors thesis with the expectation that the results can be useful for designing policy options to meet identified resource needs.

Cydney Livingston (’22) will research reproductive rights and questions about biotechnology and the ethics of state, corporate, and self-governance of human biology through investigation of eugenics in mid-20th century North Carolina. She will center her work around the Human Betterment League of North Carolina to assess how and why they reinterpreted and reintegrated decades old eugenics ideas. However, this organization and local history elicit broader transformations in perceived biological identity as reproductive control shifted from oppressive sterilization to “liberatory” family planning and birth control. How do ideals, knowledge, and institutions of present-day genetics perpetuate this eugenic past or diverge from it? 

Liyu Woldemichael (’22) will study prison ecology, the intersection of incarceration and environmental justice. The alarming expansion of the prison-industrial complex has led to an under-regulated, overcrowded carceral system increasingly concentrated in geographically isolated areas. The rise of our prison system has been most felt by those incarcerated, prison-adjacent communities, and the surrounding ecologies. In order to understand the differences in states with varying degrees of environmental regulations, permit protocols, and incarceration trends, Liyu will examine her home state, Alabama, and compare it to patterns in California. Through analyzing environmental injustices with these carceral facilities, she hopes to understand key victories across the country for decarceration, the challenges, and identify the conditions necessary for successful organizing.

Ekta Patel is a 4th year PhD candidate in Environmental Policy with a concentration in Political Science at Duke. This summer, Ekta will continue her dissertation project on desalination governance. Ensuring access to adequate quantities of water for basic needs remains a fundamental challenge for cities where surface and groundwater resources run low. In the face of this scarcity and increasing variability wrought by climate change, many places are turning to new sources of water like seawater desalination to ensure future water supply. This trend is taking off simultaneously across many locations globally, but the questions of how, by whom, and why this technology is moving forward remain understudied. By identifying the extent of support/opposition by stakeholder type and reasons for stakeholder positions, Ekta aims to map who owns what issue and when — e.g. pattern detection when it comes to the specific case — and identify how vested interests of stakeholders are included (or not) in the decision-making process by the permitting agencies.