Social Sciences

Social Sciences

Our social science disciplines apply both quantitative scientific and interpretive humanistic methodologies to study diverse patterns of human behavior, social structures and cultural and social change. Highly-ranked departments in the Social Sciences Division of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, such as economics, history, political science, sociology, cultural anthropology, African and African American studies and gender, sexuality and feminist studies, produce research and scholarship that advance their respective fields and the university's goal of knowledge in service of society.

Interpretive Social Sciences & Population Studies

In addition, Duke's interpretive social sciences have distinguished themselves internationally with research addressing important global cultural themes related to gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, citizenship/nationality, social exclusion, social inequality, social movements, diaspora, health, religion, artistic expression, among other factors. Diverse methods are being used to examine the human condition, including linguistic studies, the examination of public and private records of individuals and organizational entities, life histories, direct observation of human interactions, analyses of cultural artifacts and their origins, among other pursuits. See also the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Please explore our departments, centers and affiliated research groups below.

Departments & Programs

African and African American Studies

Researchers in the African & African American Studies department encompass anthropologists, economists, performance artists, literary critics, political scientists, philosophers, sociologists, historians, and art historians. Scholarly teams explore music, cultural studies, film, performance, popular culture, gender, sexuality, race, public policy and law to reveal the experiences and perspectives of those of African descent and to theorize and historicize racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and other markers of difference. Some scholars concentrate on Africa and the African diaspora in the Atlantic World examining the dynamics of race and African culture outside of the U.S. At the undergraduate level, we offer a major and a minor, with either an Americas or an African focus. At the graduate level, we offer a Certificate in African and African American Studies that is open to Duke graduate students admitted in either master's or doctoral programs.

See also the North Carolina Central University-Duke Program in African, African American & Diaspora Studies, which fosters collaboration between NCCU and Duke students, sponsors jointly taught courses, a lecture series and more.

Cultural Anthropology

The Department of Cultural Anthropology ranks among the top programs in the country. Undergraduates can either major or minor in Cultural Anthropology; in both cases, we strongly support study abroad, summer ethnographic research, and the senior thesis capstone experience. Our doctoral program prepares students to meld grounded field research with theoretical sophistication in doing anthropology sensitive to the challenges and complexities of making sense of human experience. Our department is on the cutting edge of new debates about globalization and diaspora, popular culture and mass media, nationalism and identity, race and sexuality, and the politics of tradition and modernity. We explore these issues through a range of theoretical orientations that include postcolonial and Marxist theory, feminist and critical race theory, psychoanalysis and psychology, political ecology and science and technology.


The Economics department is rapidly approaching the top ten programs nationally.  It is broadly focused on econometrics, micro- and macro-economic theory, and applied economics, with distinctive collaborations across these boundaries. Faculty research encompasses the broad fields of finance, international trade, development, public sector studies, law, business and monetary economics, with specialized scholarship focused on environmental and ecological economics, cultural, agricultural and natural resource economics, education, racial inequality, and labor and economic demography. At the undergraduate level, we offer a B.S. or a B.A. in economics, minors in economics and finance, and a finance concentration. At the master's level, we offer a master of arts in economics, a master of arts in analytical political economy, a master of science in economics and computation, and a master of science in statistical and economic modeling. We also offer a Ph.D. program in economics. 


Duke's Program in Education is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Our small class size creates a highly personalized learning environment for our students. We offer several options for teacher certification. For Undergraduates: We offer a Minor in Education, and two teacher preparation programs (Elementary and Secondary Education) that lead to licensure in North Carolina and beyond. Service learning and field experiences are a foundation of all our programs. For Graduate Students: We offer a year-long Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree that explores the most exciting and challenging questions in education research and practice. For In-Service Teachers: We offer a non-degree Academically/Intellectually Gifted add-on licensure program.

Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies

The Duke Program in Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies is dedicated to exploring gender identities, relations, practices, theories and institutions. We offer an undergraduate major and minor, and a graduate certificate in Feminist Studies. Faculty scholarship encompasses historical, political, literary, philosophical, economic, representational, technological, sociological and scientific analyses. Research themes include the social impacts of the intersectionality of gender, race and class; sexuality and reproductive ethics; food politics and alternative approaches to economics; women’s writing and feminism in contemporary art; ecofeminism, ethics and human rights; religion and psychoanalysis; identity and subjectivity in the Arab world; Anglo and Francophone literature; and feminist theory.


The History department is among the top programs nationally. Faculty research encompasses intellectual, legal, medical and military history; politics, public life and governance; labor and working class history; gender, race and ethnicity studies; global transnational history and comparative colonial studies; religion and social movements; and an emphasis in medieval and early modern history. Regional specializations include early North America, Antebellum U.S., Modern America, Afro-America, American South, Latin America, Africa, Europe, British Empire, South Asia, Japan, China, Russia, and the French Caribbean and the Atlantic World. At the undergraduate level, we offer a major in history with both thematic or geographic concentrations, and a minor in history. At the graduate level, we offer a Ph.D. in history.

International Comparative Studies

The International Comparative Studies Program helps students create coherent bachelor degree programs that emphasize the study of critical transnationalism. Students engage in interdisciplinary coursework focused on regions, engage in global education programs, and integrate the fields of culture, history, politics and language.


The Linguistics Program is a unique inter-disciplinary program offering undergraduate classes, majors and minors, and honors thesis supervision. The program draws on faculty expertise from across the university to provide an education which is both deep and broad. Particular research and teaching strengths include language and the brain (neurolinguistics), language change (historical linguistics), language and society (sociolinguistics) and language and politics. Linguistics majors are able to analyze and use language effectively, but they also develop excellent problem-solving, pattern-recognition and critical thinking skills that are highly valued in the job and graduate school markets. Many students go on to law or medical school, or other post-graduate training; others successfully pursue careers in a variety of fields including the media, advertising and marketing, finance, and education.


Duke's Department of Philosophy has a strong faculty that is committed to excellence in both research and teaching. In a recent ranking of philosophy programs in the United States, the department was recognized for particular strength in the areas of philosophy of biology (rated as one of the two top programs in this area), philosophy of mind, political philosophy, applied ethics, philosophy of social science, 17th- and 18th-Century philosophy and Chinese philosophy. Expertise in the Department also extends to other areas of the history of philosophy such as ancient philosophy, Kant, 20th-Century analytic philosophy, and history and philosophy of science, cognitive science, moral psychology, normative ethics, philosophy of law, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophical logic. We offer an undergraduate major and minor, a Ph.D. in philosophy, and a joint Juris Doctor/Master of Arts degree.

Political Science

The Political Science department has been among the top ten programs nationally for many years. Its faculty contributes to the general fields of political economy, philosophy, institutions including law, and public policy. Our research encompasses the broad fields of normative political theory & philosophy; political behavior & identities; political economy; political institutions; political methodology; and security, peace & conflict. At the undergraduate level, we offer a bachelor of science in political science and a minor. We are also affiliated with the Certificate in Philosophy, Politics & Economics, and the Certificate in Decision Sciences. At the graduate level, we offer a master of arts or Ph.D. in political science, a master of arts in analytical political economy, and a joint master of arts/Juris doctor program.

Psychology and Neuroscience

The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience is internationally known for leadership in cognitive science and clinical psychology. Research in the fields of developmental psychology, social and personality psychology, cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience, and systems and integrative neuroscience deploy techniques such as experimental research with humans and animals, surveys, longitudinal field studies, brain imaging, genetic mapping and computational models. Scholarly exploration addresses topics in decision-making, self-concept and self-regulation, post traumatic stress disorder, health and behavior, achievement and motivation, emotional memory, language acquisition and visual perception, to name just a few.

Trinity College of Arts & Sciences faculty are broadly engaged in neuroscience research and education, with particularly strong affiliation with the interdisciplinary Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. Our undergraduate program in neuroscience offers an interdisciplinary major/minor that draws faculty and courses from many individual departments, chiefly the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and the Department of Biology. Administrative support for this curriculum is provided by TCA&S and the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. Graduate programs encompass the graduate admitting program in Cognitive Neuroscience, and doctoral programs in Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience and Systems and Integrative Neuroscience.     


The Sociology department is ranked among the top 12 and rapidly approaching the top ten programs in the country. Faculty specializes in comparative and historical sociology; population studies across time focusing on fertility, migration, morbidity and mortality; medical and economic sociology; social stratification; and the sociology of morality and religion. Quantitative and qualitative approaches are deployed to understand the structure and dynamics of human societies, particularly in a global context; the formal organization and social implications of health care policy, infectious and chronic illness patterns and social epidemiology; society as structured by race, education, occupations, markets and economic organizations; social networks, personality and group processes; and how religion shapes and is shaped by organizations, subcultures and demographic composition. We offer a major and minor in sociology, and a Ph.D. in sociology.

News & Video


  • Big Data Initiative

    The Information Initiative at Duke

    The Information Initiative at Duke (iiD) is a cross-school, multi-investigator, game-changing research and educational program designed to make big data make sense. iiD is organized to encourage crosspollination of ideas across disciplines, and to develop new forms of collaboration that will advance research and education across the full spectrum of disciplines at Duke.


    Through this effort we aim to:

Selected Publications

Centers & Institutes

Center for Biobehavioral Health Disparities Research

The Center on Biobehavioral Health Disparities Research, a program affiliated with Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences (REGSS) and an affiliate of the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) at Duke University, strives to support research investigating the integration of social, behavioral, and biological aspects of health disparities. The center provides infrastructure support for the operation of research on health disparities in the form of computer support, grants management, and information networking on scholarly and practical aspects. Our center has a diverse range of interests including cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, Diabetes/Obesity, Dementia, and Sickle Cell Disease. We are also involved in examinations of how age is related to the stratification, as well as the causal etiology of these conditions. Core faculty include members of the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience.

Center for Cognitive Neuroscience

The Center for Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN) serves as the central focus at Duke University for research, education, and training in the psychological, computational, and biological mechanisms of higher mental function; variability in these mechanisms among individuals, across the lifespan, and between species; application of these mechanisms to real-world problems; and their dissolution in disease and mental disorders. Cognitive neuroscience is by its nature interdisciplinary, and addresses longstanding questions about brain and mind from new perspectives that cut across traditional intellectual and departmental boundaries. CCN research focuses on perception, attention, memory, language, emotion, decision making, social interaction, morality, motor control, executive function, and the evolution and development of mental processes. Participating Arts & Sciences departments include psychology & neuroscience, philosophy, evolutionary anthropology, computer science, and linguistics.

Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Science

The Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Science (D-CIDES) was formed in 2010 as a campus-wide center that was jointly affiliated with two of Duke’s Signature Institutes, the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS) and the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI). It brings together Duke’s diverse and campus-wide strengths in the decision sciences – including behavioral economics, judgment and decision making, marketing, neuroeconomics, medical decision making, and addiction – into a single community for programs, education, and new research collaborations. Core programs include an ongoing speaker series, funding for postdoctoral fellows, student travel awards, and affiliated coursework.

Center for Population Health and Aging

The Center for Population Health and Aging (CPHA) is one of two research centers housed within the Duke University Population Research Institute designed to bring together the many faculty and post-doctoral researchers at Duke involved in innovative interdisciplinary research in the areas of population health and aging. The Center provides an interdisciplinary environment designed to foster important research breakthroughs in the biological, medical, and biomedical demography of aging and in the development and application of innovative mathematical and statistical demographic tools and methods.

Duke Network Analysis Center

The Duke Network Analysis Center aims to: (a) help make visible the cutting-edge network scholarship currently ongoing on campus, (b) promote new collaborations in network science, (c) introduce new researchers to network science and train them in its methods and applications, (d) provide a research service in network analysis methods to the wider Duke community, and (e) enhance Duke’s position as a leader in the research triangle and throughout the nation in this exciting interdisciplinary field.

Duke University Population Research Institute

The Duke University Population Research Institute (DuPRI) is an interdisciplinary research organization bringing together researchers from the biological, economic, mathematical, psychological, statistical, sociological, and policy sciences at Duke. The Institute seeks to advance science in the area of demography and population science, as well as expand the current boundaries of demographic investigation.

Center for Child and Family Policy

The Center for Child and Family Policy (CCFP) brings together faculty, researchers, staff, and students in an effort to contribute to solutions to important problems affecting today’s children and families, through an integrated system of teaching, research, service, and policy engagement. The Center emphasizes the bridge from basic research to policy and practice. Faculty from the following arts and sciences departments participate: economics, sociology, statistical science, psychology & neuroscience, and the Social Science Research Institute.

Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research

The Center for Health Policy & Inequalities Research (CHPIR) is an instigator and facilitator of a broad range of health policy and health disparities research that address policy relevant issues. Activities focus on population based  health research, health systems research, and intervention and evaluation research. CHPIR fosters an interdisciplinary collaborative investigative environment that also seeks to educate Duke students by providing experiences in working with our research teams and through individual mentorship.

Center for the History of Political Economy

The mission of the Center for the History of Political Economy is to promote and support research in, and the teaching of, the history of economics. It supports an active Fellowship and Visiting Scholars program, a regular Workshop series, a Hope Lunch series for the discussion of work in progress, special events, a summer Teaching Institute, and, with Duke University Press, the annual History of Political Economy conference.

Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences

The Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences (REGSS) provides a context where scholars interested in examining the constructs of race, ethnicity, and gender from an interdisciplinary perspective can engage each other in dialogue and collaboration. It offers opportunities for scholars researching issues of race, ethnicity, and gender to connect with colleagues in other departments and schools. REGSS provides a context where scholars interested in examining the constructs of race, ethnicity, and gender from an interdisciplinary perspective can engage each other in dialogue and collaboration. It offers opportunities for scholars researching issues of race, ethnicity, and gender to connect with colleagues in other departments and schools. Our questions and our methodologies draw on disciplinary backgrounds that include economics, history, political science, psychology, public policy, and sociology.

Center on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness

The Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness (CGGC) is built around the use of global value chains methodology to study the effects of globalization on various topics of interest including: industrial upgrading, international competitiveness, the environment, global health, engineering and entrepreneurship, and innovation in the global knowledge economy. Through our research, in which we seek to engage a network of researchers and educators from around the world, we strive to link global, national and local levels of analysis to shed light on the effects of globalization on governments, institutions and corporations. CGGC is dedicated to undertaking innovative, interdisciplinary research projects which harness the strengths of social science research methodology while involving scholars from diverse disciplines which range from engineering to medicine to the environmental sciences.

Duke Financial Economics Center

The Duke Financial Economics Center (DFE) leverages Duke’s cutting edge research, world-class liberal arts curriculum, and actively engaged alumni to provide both educational and career opportunities to all Duke students interested in exploring finance.

Duke Human Rights Center

The Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars and students to promote new understandings about human rights, with special emphasis on issues of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, income inequality and the environment. The Center is committed to the goal of social justice, and the politics of forgiveness, accountability and reconciliation. It seeks to promote collaborative, cross-disciplinary and critical thinking about human rights, with particular emphasis on developing undergraduate courses that highlight these questions, and sponsoring campus-wide events that encourage awareness and activism on human rights issues.

Duke Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity

The Duke Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity is a scholarly collaborative engaged in the study of the causes and consequences of inequality and in the assessment and redesign of remedies for inequality and its adverse effects. Concerned with the economic, political, social and cultural dimensions of uneven and inequitable access to resources, opportunity and capabilities, Cook Center researchers take a cross-national comparative approach to the study of human difference and disparity. Ranging from the global to the local, Cook Center scholars not only address the overarching social problem of general inequality, but they also explore social problems associated with gender, race, ethnicity and religious affiliation.

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HASTAC - Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory

HASTAC ("haystack") is a network of individuals and institutions inspired by the possibilities that new technologies offer us for shaping how we learn, teach, communicate, create, and organize our local and global communities.  We are motivated by the conviction that the digital era provides rich opportunities for informal and formal learning and for collaborative, networked research that extends across traditional disciplines, across the boundaries of academe and community, across the "two cultures" of humanism and technology, across the divide of thinking versus making, and across social strata and national borders.

Program in Asian Security Studies

The Program in Asian Security Studies (PASS) offers new routes to the study of contemporary security issues in East Asia. By drawing together a network of scholars from the U.S., Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan, PASS provides in-depth research on long-term security concerns with a focus on mapping the impact of domestic politics on regional security. PASS organizes conferences and lectures at Duke and around the U.S. that bring together scholars, policy analysts and government officials.

Duke Global Health Institute

The Duke Global Health Institute, established in 2006, brings knowledge from every corner of Duke University to bear on the most important global health issues of our time. DGHI was established as a University-wide institute to coordinate, support, and implement Duke’s interdisciplinary research, education, and service activities related to global health. DGHI is committed to developing and employing new models of education and research that engage international partners and find innovative solutions to global health challenges. DGHI works to reduce health disparities in our local community and worldwide. Recognizing that many global health problems stem from economic, social, environmental, political, and health care inequalities, DGHI brings together interdisciplinary teams to solve complex health problems and to train the next generation of global health leaders.

Quick links:

Duke Institute for Brain Sciences

Duke Institute for Brain Sciences is a cross-school, campus-wide, interdisciplinary Institute with a commitment to building an interactive community of brain science research and scholarship. Our goal is to to advance interdisciplinary research and education that transforms our understanding of brain function and translates into innovative solutions for health and society. DIBS encourages innovation and collaborations that transcend the boundaries of traditional disciplines, bringing together a diverse community of academics from the biomedical sciences, social sciences, physical sciences, humanities, law, business, public policy, mathematics, computer science and engineering.

John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies

The John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies is a unique consortium of programs committed to revitalizing notions of how knowledge is gained and exchanged. Participants from a broad range of disciplines converge to explore intellectual issues, including some of the most pressing social and political themes of our time: race and race relations, the legacy of the African-American experience, equality and opportunity among diverse populations, the implications of accelerated globalization. The center brings together humanists and those involved in the social sciences in a setting that inspires vigorous scholarship and imaginative alliances. Participating arts and science organizations include the Center for International Studies, the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, the Duke Islamic Studies Center's Transcultural Project, the Center for Canadian Studies, the Center for European Studies and faculty from the departments of music and Asian & Middle Eastern studies.

Kenan Institute for Ethics

The Kenan Institute for Ethics is an interdisciplinary “think and do” tank committed to promoting moral reflection and commitment, conducting interdisciplinary research, and shaping policy and practice. At Duke we serve as a central node for analysis, debate, and engagement on ethical issues at and beyond the university. We currently feature work on global migration, human rights, regulatory policy, moral attitudes and decision-making, and religions and public life. Participating arts and sciences faculty comes from the departments of philosophy, political science, psychology & neuroscience, religion, and sociology.

Sanford School of Public Policy

The Sanford School of Public Policy has one of the nation’s largest public policy undergraduate programs, graduating about 175 majors each year. The school also offers selective master’s degrees programs in public policy (MPP) and international development policy, and a PhD program. MPP candidates also may earn joint or concurrent professional degrees in law, business, divinity, medicine or environmental policy. The school's graduate program is ranked among the top ten policy analysis programs in the United States.

Social Science Research Institute

The Social Science Research Institute is a Duke-wide effort aimed at catalyzing pioneering social science research and methods across the social and behavioral sciences. The Institute emphasizes: creating new knowledge relevant to contemporary social problems; facilitating access and creating data sources relevant to understanding these social problems; enhancing the skills of researchers, strengthening research teams, and training the next generation of social science researchers; and translating new research findings so that they can influence contemporary understanding of social problems influencing policy debates and solutions.

Academy Fellows

American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Academy of Medical Sciences (UK)

  • Avshalom Caspi
    Psychiatry, psychology and mental health, public health, epidemiology and statistics
  • Terrie Moffitt
    Psychiatry, psychology and mental health, public health, epidemiology and statistics

National Academy of Medicine

Royal Historical Society (UK)