Directors’ Letter

 Directors’ letter to prospective participants (November 2014)

Summer 2015: Development Ethics and Global Justice: Gender, Economics and Environment   June 22 – July 17, 2015, Michigan State University

Dear Colleagues,

“Development Ethics and Global Justice: Gender, Economics and Environment” is a four-week National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute to be held Monday, June 22 to Friday, July 17, 2015 on the campus of Michigan State University. The Institute is fashioned to provide a coherent and informative survey of the linked fields of global justice and development ethics, with in-depth examination of current research by specialists in economic and environmental justice, and with particular regard to concerns of gender justice. The institute will enable participants to enhance their research and teaching in all of these areas through free conversation, guided discussion and presentations by expert scholars. It is meant to draw a broad and interdisciplinary group together for discussion, following the model of a similar successful 2013 NEH Institute, “Development Ethics: Questions, Challenges and Responsibilities.” A subsidiary objective of the institute is to foster a community of scholars – one already in development among participants of the 2013 Institute – that may continue collective work in the future, after the sessions of this Institute are complete.

Institute co-directors are Fred Gifford of Michigan State University and Eric Palmer of Allegheny College. We will arrange reading and meetings and will occasionally lead discussion in this month-long conversation, which will contextualize the contributions of our ten presenters, each of whom will be resident at the Institute for as much as one week. These presenters will include seven leading scholars from across the country and about the globe and three faculty experts from Michigan State University’s Philosophy Department. Global connections to south Asia predominate in the work of several of our speakers.  Six speakers concern themselves particularly with analysis of women’s positions and global justice, two are expert in development economics, two have a strong focus on climate change, and another has a strong focus on environmental issues as connected to agriculture and forestry. Bina Agarwal of the University of Manchester and Naila Kabeer of the London School of Economics will provide particular expertise concerning gender and economic development in South Asia.  Feminist relational theorist Christine Koggel (Carleton University), Serene Khader (CUNY Brooklyn) and Alison Jaggar (U. Colorado Boulder) will provide a rich interpretation and critique of current theories of human development and global justice, with a particular regard to gender.  Our climate specialists are philosopher Henry Shue of Oxford University, and philosopher and sociologist Asuncion St.Clair, recently a Lead Author in Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. St.Clair now works as Deputy Program Director for the Low Carbon Future at DNV-GL Corporation, Norway.

Twenty-five NEH Summer Scholars will participate in the common discussions for the full four weeks of the Institute and will also pursue individual work connected to the Institute’s subject matter. Scholars receive a $3300 stipend to defray expenses such as travel and lodging.

We encourage applications from scholars with various disciplinary backgrounds and interests in these areas of work. Faculty from USA-affiliated universities and colleges, including community colleges, as well as independent scholars will be considered (see “Applications and Eligibility” section for details). Applications are also encouraged from graduate students, as there can be three graduate students in the selected group.



The field of development ethics examines the processes and practices of international and human development and the discourses surrounding them, exploring the ethical dimensions found therein.Global justice concerns economic, social and political arrangements and their significance at the global scale.  We will pursue our work with an eye to gender disparity, distributive justice and economic opportunity, and our common environmental future. Feminist theory and care ethics, gender and economic development in South Asia, and the effects of climate change, particularly upon poor women and their dependents, are the particular concerns of the guest speakers at the Institute. The post-2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals will also feature in our consideration of the ethics and implications of policy concerning just arrangements, especially in the context of human and social development.

 Proper understanding of the issues of justice and development, and indeed of distributive justice in general, requires examination from the perspectives of women.  Gender inequality is especially significant for several reasons: its extent (the high representation of women facing poverty, social exclusion and vulnerability), its cultural and institutional roots, and the instrumental importance its reduction has for development generally. One of the clearest indicators of development is the similarity of literacy rates of men and women.  Conversely, an aspect of this inequality and vulnerability that is a political marker of development and a concern for ethics and justice is women’s disconnection from institutions of governance. The empowerment of women particularly influences their reproductive choices and the welfare of their children.

Proper understanding of development ethics and distributive justice also requires engagement with economics and other social science approaches.  One central theme in ethics and development has involved a challenge to the hegemony of the field of economics in international development, including the tacit reduction of all value to economic value.  The introduction and elaboration of Amartya Sen’s and Martha Nussbaum’s Capability Approach as an alternative conception of development has been the dominant response of philosophers of development, and other approaches and new criticism, particularly informed by post-colonial challenges, relational theory and recognition theory, promote further development and re-thinking of the Capability paradigm. But it remains true that philosophers attempting to contribute to this field require an understanding of the thinking of economists and others in development studies, and of those engaged on the ground with the struggles faced by vulnerable groups. The field of ethics and development must be interdisciplinary, with a grasp of labor, education, agriculture and environmental issues. It concerns the details of planning and policy at local, national and international levels, as well as the processes that underlie decisions concerning measures of development, such as the Human Development Index, and the framing of development objectives, such as the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), as well as their successors, the Sustainable Development Goals.

A newer area of concern for modern development, showing increased prominence in the newer U.N. goals, is the environment. Environmental philosophy, global environmental change and its implications for distributive justice, and other matters of environmental justice are addressed by several of our speakers, who provide expertise and philosophical reflection regarding climate change, international environmental initiatives, popular political movements concerning forest preservation, and the choices and concerns of agriculturalists. The recent social science and environmental philosophy that we will survey calls into question the “development as usual” perspective of the Global North and forces upon us the issue of the need for global deliberation and cooperation.

This interdisciplinarity and this engagement in urgent real problems of global social justice can provide both important challenges and opportunities for scholarship and for teaching. It is with the goal of addressing these that the presenters and the reading list have been chosen, and in light of these goals we will pursue our conversations during the Summer Institute.


The Institute in brief

This Institute brings prominent scholars with diverse concerns and perspectives together to present their recent work, share their vision of the field, and engage in extended discussion with the participants who are selected as NEH Summer Scholars. Typically, a given week will include two visiting speakers, one whose primary disciplinary identification is as a philosopher and another for whom the approach to issues of justice begins largely from social science (development economics or sociology). This should allow for high-level interdisciplinary discussion among presenters and participants alike. Week 2 will take a different structure, with a good deal of time set aside for planning and developing individual projects and group work to be pursued during the remainder of the institute.  A single visiting speaker, a philosopher who was a participant in the 2013 Institute, will join us in that week.

To complement the material presented by our visiting speakers, on one day for each of three weeks, a resident philosopher from Michigan State’s Philosophy Department will present work on complementary topics concerning agricultural and food ethics, political responsibility and democratic political education, and environmental justice and indigenous populations.  To explore ways in which development themes are relevant not just to the Global South but similarly to the North, we will take one Saturday to travel as a group to a number of sites of development and re-development in the Lansing area, where economic contraction has left its mark in ways similar to those familiar in news of the city of Detroit. Our itinerary includes farms, markets, employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, and community projects,and will include meeting with leaders and community members.

Work for participants should begin, at a low level, several weeks prior to the Institute’s start date. Readings – many, but not all of which will be provided electronically – will be identified well in advance to allow for preparation.  We will also ask for a bit of participation in an electronic forum, to orient participants to expectations and local arrangements, and to allow everyone to introduce their research interests and projects to each other.

More information concerning ourselves and the speakers, the institute topics, the schedule, the reading list and local arrangements will be provided and updated in coming months, and may be found at the appropriate tabs on the institute website ( Details concerning the previous (2013) institute may also be found there.


Food, Housing and Classroom

We have reserved a block of air-conditioned rooms (singles, sharing a bathroom with one other room) in Owen Residence Hall for $42/night ($1134 for 27 nights). Rooms include linens (sheets, pillow and pillowcase, blanket). Laundry facilities are available in the basement.  Ethernet plug-in connections are available in the dorm rooms; wireless Internet is available in public areas of the buildings, but not in dorm rooms. This is likely to be the most convenient and least expensive housing available for single individuals, though Summer Scholars can arrange for other housing options.These rooms are not suitable for couples; such housing, and special needs and disability accessible housing, we will gladly investigate on a case-by case basis. We will endeavor to help participants to secure such alternatives, particularly to allow for more family-friendly arrangements, though some alternative arrangements suitable to particular requests cannot be guaranteed.

Our Institute sessions will be held in a classroom building across the street from Owen Hall, in the Eli Broad Business School. Meals may be taken at the cafeteria of Shaw Hall (next to our classroom building), which boasts a variety of food stations, catering to various dietary preferences, and which overlooks the Red Cedar River.   Breakfast is $5.99 (plus tax).  Lunch, Dinner, and Late-Night food are $9.49 (plus tax).  A meal plan for the cafeteria is not required, but for lunch it will usually be the most convenient option, as it will facilitate continued discussion.  For breakfast there is also a smaller cafeteria, Riverwalk Market, within Owen Hall, with coffee and a limited food selection.

These buildings are all located near the heart of campus (near the new Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum,, and a short walk from the library) and are not far from the off-campus shops and restaurants of Grand River Avenue.


Institutional context

Michigan State University is the nation’s pioneer land-grant university and thus has a strong history of engaging scholarly work with work of practical importance.  MSU’s Philosophy Department has long fit that characterization, traditionally in areas of health care ethics and social and political thought, and more recently in ethics and development and environmental philosophy. In April 2005, an International Conference and Workshop on Ethics and Development took place, an event that saw the participation of renowned development ethicists and development practitioners from different parts of the world. That year saw the launch of a development ethics graduate specialization, offering an interdisciplinary approach for M.A. and Ph.D. students in the analysis of the difficult ethical issues that arise in the course of social, economic, political and cultural development.  The Specialization is housed in the Philosophy Department, but attracts M.A. and Ph.D. students from a wide range of disciplines.  The department has initiated a new online certificate program addressing the needs of development practitioners working around the world.

MSU also has a wide range of programs elsewhere in the University that concern themselves with international development, notably CASID (Center for Advanced Study in International Development), Center for Gender in Global Context (GenCen), CLACS (Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies), and groups such as the West African Food Security Group. MSU’s research library will be made available to participants: Research resources – library and journal access – will be provided to participants by Michigan State University during the period of the Institute.


Applications and eligibility

Applications are encouraged from U.S.-chartered university, four-year college and community college faculty, part-time faculty, independent scholars, and others. Applications are also encouraged from graduate students, three of whom are expected among the participating group of NEH scholars.

Before devoting your time to submitting an application, please be certain you satisfy NEH eligibility criteria as set out at If you have any questions concerning eligibility, please feel free to contact us.  The first thing to do after determining your eligibility is to fill out an application cover sheet and email it to us: details may be found at the “Application Details” tab of the website. If you have questions, once again, please feel free to contact us.

We, the directors, are also very happy to discuss the planned program or other details of the institute with you: please just drop either of us an email at the addresses below. The submission deadline for applications is March 2 2015 (postmark/ electronic postmark date), and applications should be directed to Fred Gifford, at the address below.  (See more detailed instructions at the “Application” tab.)We thank you for your interest in this program, and we hope that you will consider joining us at Michigan State this summer.


Fred Gifford, Professor

Department of Philosophy

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI 48824
tel. 517-355-4490


Eric Palmer, Professor

Department of Philosophy

Allegheny College

Meadville, PA 16335

tel. 814-350-2652


To proceed with an application, please see Application Details tab on the institute webpages; applications should be directed to the dedicated web address

Institute Directors

Fred Gifford, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University
Faculty Associate in the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences

Eric Palmer, Professor of Philosophy, Allegheny College


Visiting Scholars, 2015

Bina Agarwal, Professor of Development Economics and Environment,
University of Manchester, UK.

Alison M. Jaggar, College Professor of Distinction, University of Colorado at Boulder
Distinguished Research Professor, University of Birmingham

Naila Kabeer, Professor of Gender and Development
Gender Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science

Serene J. Khader, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Brooklyn College of CUNY

Christine Koggel, Professor of Philosophy, Carleton University, Ottawa

Henry Shue, Senior Research Fellow, Merton College
Professor of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford

Asuncion Lera St.Clair,Deputy Program Director for the Low Carbon Future, Det Norske Veritas – Germanischer Lloyd (DNV-GL AS.), Norway


Resident Guest Lecturers, Michigan State University, 2015

Paul Thompson, W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural Food and Community Ethics and Professor of Philosophy

Stephen Esquith, Professor of Philosophy
Dean of the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities

Kyle Whyte, Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Timnick Chair in the Humanities


Please feel free to contact the people below, to learn more about the previous institute:

Past NEH Faculty (2013)

Frances Stewart, David Crocker, Paul Thompson (MSU), Leela Fernandes, Sandra Harding, Richard Peterson (MSU), Bronwyn Leebaw, Jay Drydyk, Stephen Esquith (MSU), Des Gasper, Nigel Dower, Kyle Whyte (MSU)


Past NEH Participants and graduate staff (2013)

Corwin Aragon, Tayo Basquiat, Steven Brown, Max Cherem, Serena Cosgrove, Harry Coverston, Abi Doukhan, Debra Erickson, Lily Frank, Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox, Sara Gavrell, Alba Hesselroth, David Hoekema, Chioke I’Anson, Mladjo Ivanovic, Lori Keleher,  Serene Khader, Stacy Kosko, Sidra Lawrence, Johanna Luttrell, Bindu Madhok, Anna Malavisi, Julie McDonald, Rekha Nath, Samantha Noll, Eddy Souffrant, Eileen Wallis, Daniel Whelan



Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.