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Karin Shapiro

Associate Professor of the Practice in the Department of African and African American Studies
African & African American Studies
Box 90252, Durham, NC 27708
243D Friedl Building, Box 90252, Durham, NC 27708
Office hours Wednesdays 3:30pm-5:00pm  

Research Interests


Current Research: Monograph

Your Grace: The Life and Times of Walter Khotso Makhulu

This biography of Walter Khotso Makhulu, the South African-born former Archbishop of Central Africa and leader of the World Council of Churches, explores how he and mainstream churches fought against apartheid. Beyond offering moral authority, Makhulu and his fellow religious leaders provided material and spiritual support to people fleeing racial oppression; served as key conduits of information and sustained international attention on apartheid; and funneled money surreptitiously to a range of activists within South Africa.  In his post-apartheid career, Makhulu also stands out as an African religious leader who embraced the ordination of women and LGBTQ rights.

Current Research: Film 

Forging a Philosophy of Health: Lessons from South Africa


This documentary explores the impact of South African practices of community healthcare in the post-World War II American South. The story traces the influence of the Global South on the American South, a process set in motion by two antithetical socio-political projects: the gathering steam of the Civil Rights Movement, on the one hand, and the tightening grip of apartheid on the other. 


In 1940s South Africa, the Government took a surprisingly bold and progressive step when it sought to establish a National Health Service that intended to provide services that would promote health and prevent, cure and rehabilitate ill-health. The mechanism for achieving this capacious set of services centered on community health centers, with interdisciplinary teams of providers working together in defined areas. To make this a reality, the newly constituted National Health Council drew on the talents of a group of doctors committed to this pursuit.


As apartheid became entrenched, a number of these medical advocates took flight to the United States where these ideas reseeded in more fertile soil. From a new base in North Carolina, the “social medics” played a significant role in the development of social epidemiology and also helped shape the nature of public health practices in the South. Many of their early ideas -- about the social determinants of health, the engagement of lay health advisors, and community-based participatory research -- are today’s watchwords in epidemiology and community health. This film thus tells this transnational story—in which the direction of influence and authority was from South to North, rather than the more familiar reverse.

Selected Grants


Fulbright Revisited- A Documentary

ResearchPrincipal Investigator · Awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation · 2009 - 2011

Social Medicine in South Africa and Abroad: The North Carolina Connection

ResearchPrincipal Investigator · Awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation · 2008 - 2009

No Exit? The Politics of South African Emigration Restrictions in Early Apartheid South Africa

ResearchPrincipal Investigator · Awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation · 2006 - 2008

Double Vision: A Journey into the South African Diaspora in North Carolina

Institutional SupportPrincipal Investigator · Awarded by NC Humanities Council · 2005 - 2005

Fellowships, Gifts, and Supported Research


Forging a Philosophy of Health: Lessons from South Africa · 2023 - 2024 EXPLORE Grant, Office for Research and Innovation, Duke University
Reckoning with Race, Racism, and the History of the American South Initiative: South African Social Medicine and the Great Society in North Carolina · 2021 Lead · Duke Office of the Provost https://facultyadvancement.duke.edu/new-faculty-research-explore-race-south-diverse-angles
Christianity and Biography in Southern Africa (with Lauren Jarvis, UNC-Chapel Hill) · 2020 - 2021 Africa Initiative Declined, COVID
South African Social Medicine and the Great Society in North Carolina · 2020 - 2021 Arts & Sciences Council Committee on Faculty Research (ASC-CFR)
Competitive Dean’s Leave · 2018 - 2019 Duke School of Arts & Sciences
Forging a Philosophy of Health: Lessons from South Africa · 2023 - 2024 EXPLORE Grant, Office for Research and Innovation, Duke University
Reckoning with Race, Racism, and the History of the American South Initiative: South African Social Medicine and the Great Society in North Carolina · 2021 Lead · Duke Office of the Provost https://facultyadvancement.duke.edu/new-faculty-research-explore-race-south-diverse-angles
Christianity and Biography in Southern Africa (with Lauren Jarvis, UNC-Chapel Hill) · 2020 - 2021 Africa Initiative Declined, COVID
South African Social Medicine and the Great Society in North Carolina · 2020 - 2021 Arts & Sciences Council Committee on Faculty Research (ASC-CFR)
Competitive Dean’s Leave · 2018 - 2019 Duke School of Arts & Sciences
Research Assistant for video, “John Henry Lives On: Sherman James and the John Henryism Hypothesis.” · 2017 Franklin Humanities Institute, Health Humanities Lab
Support for biography of Walter Khotso Makhulu · 2015 Arts & Sciences Council Committee on Faculty Research (ASC-CFR)
Grant for the exhibit on Jewish history in Durham · 2012 Southern Jewish Historical Society
Funding for “Fulbright Revisited” from the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars, the Institute for International Education · 2009 - 2010 Duke Endowment and the Josiah Charles Trent Grants, Duke University
W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Fellow (Declined) · 2007 - 2008 Harvard University Declined
Forging a Philosophy of Health: Lessons from South Africa · 2023 - 2024 Social Science Research Institute (SSRI), Duke University
Understanding the Transformed and Transforming South: Perspectives on Race, Economics, Politics and Public Policy. Social Science Research Institute Faculty Fellow · 2007 - 2008 Duke University
Fulbright Scholar · 1984 - 1989 Yale University Ph.D. Studies (History)
Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Fund Fellowship · 1987 - 1989 Oppenheimer Memorial Trust
Collaborative Teaching Through Research Across Institutions Grant (Declined) · 2014 Duke University Granted to teach a collaborative course with Tshepo Moloi, University of Witwatersrand
South African Human Sciences Research Fellowship for Honours Degree · 1980 South African Human Sciences Research Council
Double Vision Mini-Grant · 2005 North Carolina Humanities Council
Ad Hoc Research Grant · 1994 University of Witwatersrand
Research Fellow · 1992 - 1997 University of Witwatersrand, Institute for Advanced Social Research
John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Fellow · 2005 - 2006 Duke University
Course Website Development Grant · 2002 Center for Informational Technology, Duke University
Medical History Grant · 2008 - 2008 Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Support for both the video with epidemiologist, Sherman James and the larger study on “The Creation of a Social Medicine Approach to Public Health Research and Practice: From South Africa to the “Great Society” in North Carolina,”
Doctoral Merit Bursary · 1989 - 1991 South African Human Sciences Research Council
CIT-TWP Fellowship Program on Teaching Research with Writing · 2011 - 2012 Duke University
Course Development Grant, Center for Documentary Studies · 2002 Duke University
Medical History Grant · 2015 - 2015 Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Support for both the video with epidemiologist, Sherman James and the larger study on “The Creation of a Social Medicine Approach to Public Health Research and Practice: From South Africa to the “Great Society” in North Carolina,”
Course Development Grant, History Department · 2006 Duke University
Post-Doctoral Fellowship for Research in the United States · 1994 South African Human Sciences Research Council
John F. Enders Grant · 1987 - 1988 Yale University
Medical History Grant · 2016 - 2016 Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Support for both the video with epidemiologist, Sherman James and the larger study on “The Creation of a Social Medicine Approach to Public Health Research and Practice: From South Africa to the “Great Society” in North Carolina,”
Albert J. Beveridge Grant · 1987 American Historical Association
Post-Doctoral Fellowship for Research in the United States · 1994 Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa