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.

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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.

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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)