Robin Kirk
Professor of the Practice of Cultural Anthropology

The core of my work is to understand and communicate new ideas of human rights, including young people in that conversation. In addition to founding Duke's Human Rights Certificate program for undergraduates, I explore human rights themes in my writing for adults and children. One of my goals for teaching is to ensure that students see human rights in what Eleanor Roosevelt once described as the "small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world ... Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere." One of my proudest achievements is to have worked in community to help launch the Pauli Murray Center, which seeks to use the legacy of this Durham daughter to examine the region’s past of slavery, segregation, and continuing economic inequality. My book, Righting Wrongs: 20 Human Rights Heroes from around the World, introduces young readers to some of the people who helped create modern human rights. I also write fantasy and science fiction as a way of exploring human rights themes in story.  "The Bond" fantasy trilogy imagines a female-led society determined to win peace though at the cost of the genocide of men. 

Current Research Interests

I am completing a space opera looking at the world of human rights and humanitarian aid in a future web of galaxies.

In non-fiction, I'm exploring how the memory of the past can be used to understand challenges to human rights. From Northern Ireland to Hungary, Chile, South Korea, and the United States, communities that have suffered violence engage with the past even as they live with or near former persecutors. Alongside mechanisms like trials and truth commissions, these memory initiatives are cutting-edge human rights work that redraw the map of what we think of as museums, monuments, and how we tell our own story. I'm using my own research and family story to make a compelling case for intentional history-telling at the local, regional, and national levels. I argue that remembering the past is an essential part of building a way out of conflict, be it on the streets of Belfast or in America’s neighborhoods. The past matters because it is so often a factor in unrest and violence that costs thousands of lives and billions in policing and damages form violent protest.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Contact Information

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