Directors’ Overview

This page contains:

1. Directors’ preview plan for the institute

2. Directors’ letter to prospective participants and application procedure details (Archival, for consultation: November 2014)


1. Directors’ preview plan for the institute

This planning document is for participant consultation; some details, no doubt, will change as the institute begins.

General Summary:

The Institute takes place Monday June 22 to Friday July 17, 2015. Shortly after being admitted to the Institute (early April), participants will receive housing information, an advance reading list and other current Institute information. Several weeks before the start date, communication will be supported through email and perhaps a dedicated blog site that will serve as a center for updates to reading material, planning information, and participant discussion and feedback. Participants’ writing about their interests and proposed projects will allow us all, speakers, directors and participants, to see who we will be working with, and help facilitate the optional formation of working groups that might foster critique and development of writing, as well as possibilities for co-authorship, collective publication, and conference organization.

Each week will ordinarily be constituted by the following sessions: Each of the two visiting scholars will present their work and lead discussion in four 75 minute sessions, with one or two more such sessions for summary and debriefing. Another session will be led by an MSU resident expert. A 2-hour “End of the Week” panel will include all of the speakers. Other sessions will be developed — particularly in week 2, which lays aside space for development of group projects — and one other session is planned to wrap up the week’s work. We will ordinarily meet 4-5 days/week between the hours of 9-5: sessions will break on the evening of Thursday July 3 and reconvene the morning of Tuesday July 7, to allow for a lengthened 4th of July break.

Opening day: On the first morning of the Institute, Monday, June 22nd, the co-directors will present the scope and organization of the Institute. They will introduce the rationale and goals of the program, sketch the main themes of the Institute and provide a broad map of the interconnections among the visiting scholars and MSU faculty members. Time on this first morning will be given to the logistics of the institute, and several blocks of time throughout the first week will provide participants the opportunity to efficiently introduce themselves and their work via 5-minute presentations.

The themes of the four different weeks will develop as a line of thought over the course of the Institute.  The first week will delve into the social science perspective of an economist of development paired with philosophical treatment of the capabilities approach and the concept of empowerment provided by a philosopher.  The second week expands the philosophical emphasis on women’s lives and feminist critical perspectives, to help us explore some central themes and tensions concerning development ethics.  In the third week we return to broad themes of gender justice, global justice and institutions;  this will allow connections across the institute topics and connections to broad and traditional themes in philosophy. Finally, week four takes up a specific environmental focus, examining climate change as a case study in global environmental justice.


Week 1: Economics, capabilities and women’s empowerment

Naila Kabeer and Christine Koggel
(Tentative scheduling: MSU Lecturer Stephen Esquith)

The first week will be devoted to the introduction of framing concepts of central importance for the Institute: issues of global justice in relation to women’s lives and their economic decisions, and some conceptual tools of development ethics that concern distributive justice and the capabilities approach to development. As is the case also in the weeks that follow, several sessions of the week, led by visiting faculty and directors in concert, will be devoted to general introduction and discussion of the week’s themes, with focus upon the week’s reading list, and with general reference throughout the Institute to broader philosophical and applied issues captured in the pre-institute reading list (see Appendix ii).

Naila Kabeer, our first speaker, will provide us a framing discussion of the history of economic perspectives upon development, and of the changing place for women within that history. Kabeer is Professor of Gender and Development at the Gender Institute of the London School of Economics, a position that follows her work as Professor of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at University of London. As a social economist, she has decades of experience in advisory work with International development agencies of global influence and with the national development agencies of Sweden and United Kingdom. Her work with non-governmental organizations includes international organizations and, especially in South Asia, innovative national organizations and peoples’ collectives.

Kabeer’s work specifically frames gender and other forms of discrimination, encompassing themes including labor markets and livelihoods, poverty, social protection and citizenship. Her experience lies with women’s empowerment and gender justice in contexts where even basic negative liberties cannot be taken for granted. Kabeer will highlight a philosophical face of her work, a discussion of political philosophy that may be seen as a continuous thread in her diverse studies over the years. She finds that a vision of social change that is premised on the idea of universal human rights cannot be transferred easily to these contexts, yet she does not maintain that communitarianism and cultural relativism offer answers.  She is interested in the processes that lead oppressed groups, and women from these groups in particular, to question the justice of the social arrangements that govern their lives and to articulate their own pathways to social change. Her focus, then, is upon empowerment as the root of political awareness, social justice, and, ultimately, distributive justice.

This focus upon women shaping the world’s destiny at the same time as they shape their own futures presents the broad ideal of agency that is central to current philosophy of human development: the idea that control of one’s own future – one’s individual development – is both a means and an end of development. Such thinking lies at the root of current formulations of development philosophy, especially the capabilities approach, and is the concern of philosophers who consider the work of Kabeer, Sen and Nussbaum – notably Jay Drydyk, who presented at the 2013 Institute, and his colleague at Carleton University, our invited speaker for this year, Christine Koggel.

Koggel’s recent work provides us a careful examination of the use of the concept of empowerment, which played a particular role in development as articulated in reports between 1998 and 2006 presented by social scientists and institutions, such as the World Bank, that took on the task of defining and measuring it. Development ethicists responded with critiques that focused on a range of issues and questions. How is empowerment different from agency, a concept central to the capabilities approach, for example? What role does advocacy play, and what role, if any, should it play in policies designed to empower people? What is missing in these accounts of empowerment—with respect to delineating what it is, how it can be measured, and what it takes to achieve it? What sorts of biases and assumptions may be embedded in some of this work on empowerment?

The cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary inquiry into empowerment has enriched development theory and practice and broadened the “informational base” (as Amartya Sen would put it) beyond the initial enthusiasm for what “empowerment” was set to achieve in development theory and practice. This broadening of the informational base has included critical inquiry into the ways in which features and factors of globalization, oppression, and relations of power at global, national, and local levels can shape, affect, hinder, and undermine possibilities for empowering people and groups in specific communities and countries. These new insights into empowerment have come from a number of sources that Koggel may explore with the group: the World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development; recent critiques and expansions of Sen’s version of the capabilities approach; on the ground work by international and national NGOs; and feminist theory as framed by postcolonial and relational feminist theorists as well as care ethicists.

Rounding out week 1, MSU resident philosopher Stephen Esquith will also address issues concerning governmental and international institutions and political responsibility. His current research focus concerns post-conflict reconciliation, with particular connection to dialogue and institution-building in Mali. Esquith contrasts the capacities of national and local institutions, such as truth and reconciliation commissions, with those of international institutions, such as the International Criminal Court, and the practices of international peacekeeping forces.


Week 2: Adaptive Preferences and Their Tensions

Serene Khader                                                                           

Empowerment may deserve more careful inspection, however. Women may come to achieve a position in which they can make their own choices, which would appear to mark an increase in empowerment. But what if their choices do not produce their own flourishing? Philosophers (and development planners) might still ask whether such a case of increased agency also reflects an increase in empowerment; and they might also ask whether their own choices, which they may judge subjectively as improving their condition, are wisely made. Martha Nussbaum presents the challenge thus: “Embraced as a normative position, subjective welfarism makes it impossible to conduct a radical critique of unjust conditions.” (Women and Human Development, 117) These philosophical concerns lead her to a position of social policy that may temper agency and empowerment with a re-assertion of regard for development. In a pertinent example: women in impoverished circumstances who have the charge of their children’s care may have to choose concerning which of two children to send to school, or to educate the furthest. In many societies, the women will routinely choose sons over daughters. Nussbaum inquires into the explanation for this:

[I]f one has never learned to read and is told that education is not for women, it is very easy to internalize one’s second-class status and not strive for what is out of reach… Sen argues … we have good reasons…to support public investment in female literacy, even in the absence of young girls’ demand for such programs. (Nussbaum, Sex and Social Justice 1999, 151)

Nussbaum’s suggestion is that women’s preferences may “internalize” and perpetuate the conditions of their own oppression. Her view that some sub-optimal preferences are adaptive, rather than freely chosen, has produced a nexus of philosophical discussion of rational choice, autonomy, and value pluralism. Critics, such as Alison Jaggar and Uma Narayan have replied that Nussbaum produces a reconfigured colonial perspective, perpetuating the tendency to see poor women as unthinking victims of patriarchal cultures.

Serene Khader, Jay Newman Chair in Philosophy of Culture at Brooklyn College, has summarized, reconsidered, and renewed this debate in Adaptive Preferences and Women’s Empowerment (Oxford, 2011), and in further more recent work. She argues that the common wisdom in development seems to be that such preferences are unreliable guides to the needs of the people who have them – that public institutions should encourage women to question their adaptive preferences. But what are the moral grounds for such interventions? Is the fact that a development practitioner thinks that a poor woman’s preferences are imposed by her deprivation sufficient grounds for public interrogation of those preferences? Can we encourage representatives of public institutions to question preferences they see as deprivation-perpetuating without thereby undermining our commitment to treating oppressed and deprived people as agents capable of making decisions about the types of lives they want to lead? And can development practitioners help oppressed or deprived people overcome their adaptive preferences without imposing some culturally specific conception of the good on them? A woman’s choice in educating her children is a case in point, for what appears to be an adaptive preference may be a form of rational choice under unjust circumstances, since educating the male child is much more likely to produce the greater result for most members of the family, in many patriarchal societies. Khader has focused her own critical reflection upon many arguments from rational choice theory, post-colonial feminism, multiculturalism, and current development ethics, in an exploration of this potent debate.

Additionally, Khader has a second, unique role in the Institute. Having been a participant in the 2013 Institute and already making important contributions to the field, she will work with us in structured discussions to help this year’s participants negotiate the task of synthesizing the massive content of the Institute in support of their own individual and collective projects.  Time will be set aside for discussions in week two in particular to enhance as much as possible the participants’ productivity and future collaboration.

Site visit between weeks 2 and 3: Urban Development and Redevelopment

In many respects, development themes are relevant not just to the Global South but also the North; indeed, application in the North provides a very good reason to study development on its own.  The 2013 institute toured various locations in Detroit to illustrate this, including a number of “redevelopment” and urban agriculture projects.  For 2015, we intend to visit analogous locations in and around Lansing, meeting with experts and community members. The close location will provide us flexibility, allowing us to step back and reflect before investigating further, and perhaps affording institute participants the opportunity to re-visit and make more serious connections with such groups.


Week 3: Gender and Justice; Movements and Institutions

Alison Jaggar and Henry Shue
MSU lecturer: Paul Thompson

Bina Agarwal, like Naila Kabeer, is a social scientist with a remarkable background in development policy and women’s economics, and with a particular focus in South Asia. Her remarkable career in consulting and in administrative service to the United Nations and various national governments adds a specific environmental focus to the economic concern in her focus on gender and forestry management.

Agarwal’s recent study, Gender and Green Governance (Oxford, 2010), commences from a set of initial questions that illuminate the revolutionary environmental possibilities that might arise if gender equality were present in this area of governance. She asks:  “Would women’s inclusion in forest governance — undeniably important for equity — also affect decisions on forest use and outcomes for conservation and subsistence? Are women’s interests in forests different from men’s? Would women’s presence lead to better forests and more equitable access? And does it matter which class of women governs?” Radical possibilities for managing the earth, and forests in particular, may arise in the hands of women: this is evident particularly in the Chipko movement, literally a tree-hugging protest against lumbermen that was initiated by village women in the Himalaya region of India in 1974. Chipko rejuvenated eroded environmental rights and led to a fifteen-year comprehensive effort at regional replanting, and furthered environmental action in other regions of northern India in the following decade. Chipko prefigures by several years a more familiar women’s movement of reforestation, employment and social justice begun in Kenya: the Green Belt Movement, which has global reach and is known through the work of its leader, Right Livelihood and Nobel Award winner Wangari Maathai.

Forest preservation and reforestation, then, can be highly political and empowering. As a case study in radical organization, this allows consideration of those with little voice in society. Agarwal’s contribution to the proposed institute will sketch in the ethical, institutional and political-economic dimensions of environmental conservation and governance generally, and the broader implications to empowerment and gender equality that also arise through changes to agriculture. Her work will be complemented by that of MSU philosophers Kyle Whyte (in week 4) who focuses on forestry, and Paul Thompson, who focuses on agriculture.  Thompson holds the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural food and community ethics. One distinctive thread in Thompson’s work is a regard for the perspective of the producer, working in American society, which is very focused upon food as product, with policy oriented primarily towards business entities and consumers. Thompson provides an interesting American dimension of environmental philosophy to enrich our thought concerning Agarwal’s inquiry.

Climate change serves as a case study, exemplifying development ethics themes by focusing on the challenges associated with climate change.  Environmental challenges in general, and climate change in particular, form an especially useful focus for a sustained discussion at the Institute, connecting to many of the substantive issues of development ethics: the social evaluation of scientific assessments the differential impact of change on rich and poor; the impact of change on agriculture; and the need for global cooperation for realizing possibilities for the transformation of our global institutions and social fabric.  In a link particularly to our gendered focus, as will be evident from discussion in week 3, environmental burdens rest more heavily on women, in conditions of high inequality.

Climate change provides a pressing case for considering the accountability of the Global North for the current state of the globe, and for participating responsibly in a global future. Is leadership even possible from the North? The challenge to “development as usual”, and the shortcomings of extending the North’s practices and current conception of development to the Global South, are now evident. There may be varied “models” of development (including “sustainable development”) to consider, and to criticize, both in theory and for practical policy.

While our speakers focused on climate approach the issues from quite different methodological perspectives, each is strongly rooted in both climate change discussions and the central background themes of development ethics.  Henry Shue is well-known for bringing the methods of analytic philosophy to important issues in applied ethics.  His Basic Rights: Subsistence, Affluence and U.S. Foreign Policy (Princeton, 1980) was heralded as an important and original contribution to the issues of subsistence rights and economic rights more generally. Central for thinking about our relationships with the global poor at the time, it remains influential today. He has also written widely on international justice, sovereignty and the legitimacy of interventions. In the last two decades, he has given sustained attention to climate change, both in his published writings (Climate Justice: Vulnerability and Protection, 2014) and through participation as a High Level Advisory Committee Member of the Climate Justice Dialogue, an initiative of The World Resource Institute and the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice.

Shue provides philosophical analysis of climate change’s dilemmas, informed both by analysis of rights, harm, risk, international and intergenerational justice, and by his ongoing participation in the Climate Justice Dialogue, which aims to mobilize “political willingness to build an equitable and ambitious climate agreement”.  Global concerns include the following three problems of global justice that arise for development because of climate change and our response or failure to respond.  First, climate change itself will threaten sustainable agriculture through drought, flooding, and other extreme weather events; insofar as our continuing carbon emissions cause climate change we unjustly inflict these deprivations.  Second, insofar as we reduce carbon emissions by driving up the price of fossil fuels, we will deprive the economically marginal, for whom these are the cheapest energy, of affordable energy.  Third, if we fail to change the global energy regime, we impose on the powerless a forced choice between undermining their economies by using less energy or undermining them through worsening climate.


Week 4: Climate change: Rights and Institutions

Henry Shue (continued) with Asuncion St Clair and Alison Jaggar                   MSU lecturer: Kyle Whyte

Asuncion Lera St. Clair – past President of the International Development Ethics Association (IDEA) – will address some of the same challenges, but she will come to the discussion from a different set of experiences and disciplinary perspectives.   As both philosopher and sociologist, she has written widely in development ethics – on topics of poverty, social movements, institutions such as the World Bank, and pragmatism. She has recently turned her research efforts toward issues of climate change: she was a lead author in Working Group II of the fifth report (2013-14) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and was Research Director for Climate and Development at the International Centre for Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo (CICERO). St.Clair now works as Deputy Program Director for the Low Carbon Future at DNV-GL Corporation, a global energy consulting firm based in Norway. She thus brings to the table not only philosophical perspective on concepts such as capabilities and security, as well as a social science perspective, but a very close connection to the field of development ethics in practice, as it is tied to policy and development studies in multilateral organizations.

Her contributions to the summer institute will center on the question of how the field of development ethics can help in guiding the transition to an equitable, sustainable, low-carbon future in the context of climate change.  This inquiry will pay close attention to the social transformations that climate change will bring, especially the impacts in low income economies, with attendant increase in poverty, perpetuation of existing inequalities, and rolling back of human development achievements.  Central will be taking seriously how climate change calls for new models of development, and so forces us to rethink our central concepts and assumptions about what development is and should be.

Alison Jaggar’s work has filled out our understanding of gender’s role in development and global justice, through her grasp of several ethical traditions.  Jaggar is one of the central figures in American feminist philosophy – she was a founder of the Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP) and Hypatia, the lead philosophical journal of feminist thought – and she has spent her career exploring feminist analyses of a variety of ethical and social problems and analyzing feminist ethics and feminist theory more generally.  For many years now she has turned specifically to a feminist, multicultural perspective on global justice.   She examines global institutions and policies interact with local practices to create gendered cycles of vulnerability and exploitation, along with implications of this for political responsibility.

These issues are especially significant for the institute, with the 2015 expiry of the UN Millennium Project and the final accounting of the Millennium Development Goals on the horizon, and the recent discussion of a post-2015 agenda to propel U.N. planning and goals for development and global poverty alleviation.

MSU philosopher Kyle Whyte will share his expertise concerning contexts of environmental and indigenous rights in North America and internationally. Whyte will consider the development of REDD+, the UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries Initiative, which has been designed to focus especially upon indigenous forestry and labor activities.  Another of Whyte’s interests concerns justice in development and re-development locally in Michigan.


2. 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 Northwe 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.


To apply, please complete the following.

1. Check your eligibility Criteria:
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. Questions? Please ask:

2. Interested? Fill out an NEH application cover sheet and email it to the institute, to let us know and to receive updates:

The NEH application cover sheet must be filled out online at this address:

Please follow the prompts.  Before you click the “submit” button, print out the cover sheet or make a .pdf and add it to your application package.  Then click “submit.”  At this point you will be asked if you want to fill out a cover sheet for another NEH project.  If you do, follow the prompts to select the other project and repeat the process. You must submit a separate cover sheet online for each project to which you are applying in order to generate a unique tracking number for each distinct application. (So, do not copy and paste information from a previous round to a new cover sheet.)

Before you click the “submit” button, print out the cover sheet (or make a .pdf) to save it for addition to your application package (3, below).  Then click “submit.”  At this point you will be asked if you want to fill out a cover sheet for another project.  If you do, follow the prompts to select the other project and repeat the process.

Note that filling out a cover sheet is not the same as applying, so there is no penalty for changing your mind and filling out cover sheets for several projects with different NEH directors, or for completing a new cover sheet if you have lost the information concerning one that you have already completed.

3. Application package: specifics, to be sent to institute directors

Preamble from the institute directors

All participants should plan to be present for morning and afternoon sessions Monday to Thursday, and on some Friday mornings, for each of the four weeks of the Institute. They should consider themselves engaged with the Institute on a flexible full-time basis over the full four weeks of its duration. Further meeting opportunities, including scheduled individual office hour discussions with directors (and, where possible, with visiting scholars), as well as lunches and informal gatherings, will be fit within and around these scheduled time blocks. Participants will be free to engage in further discussion, or to pursue their own research, at other times during the four weeks of the Institute. Research resources – library and journal access – will be provided to participants by Michigan State University during the period of the Institute.

Applicants should propose a project to be completed in conjunction with their participation in the Institute. These will be shared and developed independently and in the context of small group meetings during the Institute. This will allow participants the opportunity to present their research as “works in progress” within a workshop setting during these sessions, and will provide opportunities to develop group research plans or collective publications.

For full details, see further below, but in brief, applications should include:

a. the NEH Institute application cover sheet. This must be submitted to NEH electronically (available via the NEH website,, and a copy should also be included in the application packet. If you believe that you have completed a cover sheet earlier in the year for this project, but can’t find the details, then feel free to complete a new one. Duplicates are no problem.

b. a detailed resume or CV (not to exceed five pages).

c. an application essay (as outlined below).

d. a 100-200 word short professional biography, plus a 100-200 word summary of the project you intend to pursue while resident at the institute. (One function of these is that they will be posted as a brief introduction for other participants to refer to, if you are selected and accept a place at the institute (you will have a chance to review and revise it at that time).)

e. two letters of recommendation (sent separately by their authors, to

The essay is the most important component of an application. It should be no more than 1600 words. It should explain your reasons for applying; your interest, professional and perhaps personal, in the subject matter of the Institute; aspects of your background that suit you for participation in the Institute; the contribution you believe you can make to the vitality of the Institute; the project you intend to pursue while resident at the Institute as well as its planned result; and the use you intend to make of the Institute in your career. If your project of study is primarily to inquire into an area of scholarly work that is unfamiliar, though of interest and of professional importance to your future, that may constitute an acceptable project; please explain, in that case, why the area is likely to be of importance to your professional work.

Your recommendation letters are also important. Referees should be familiar with your professional background, your rationale for attending the Institute, and (ideally) with the project you plan to pursue while at the Institute.

Parts (a), (b) and (c) of applications should be sent as MS Word, .rtf, and/or PDF documents (all bundled as one, if convenient) to, with “NEH Summer Institute application” included in the subject line. Letters of reference should be provided directly by the referees to the same email address with your name in the subject line. Both should be electronically dispatched no later than March 2, 2015.

If submission by paper mail is preferable to the applicant, similar postmark deadlines apply (note that such printed materials should be provided in triplicate). Part (a) of the application must be submitted electronically to NEH as indicated above, and notification in an email to, and, from the applicant indicating arrival of materials by post is requested. Paper mail should be addressed to Fred Gifford, Department of Philosophy, 503 S. Kedzie Hall, 368 Farm Lane, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.


Application information details

[Text below is provided by NEH; some is redundant of material above]
Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers are offered by the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide college and university faculty members and independent scholars with an opportunity to enrich and revitalize their understanding of significant humanities ideas, texts, and topics.  These study opportunities are especially designed for this program and are not intended to duplicate courses normally offered by graduate programs.  On completion of a seminar or institute, NEH Summer Scholars will receive a certificate indicating their participation.

Prior to completing an application to a specific seminar or institute, please review the project website and consider carefully what is expected in terms of residence and attendance, reading and writing requirements, and general participation in the work of the project.

Each seminar includes 16 NEH Summer Scholars working in collaboration with one or two leading scholars.  Participants will have access to a significant research collection, with time reserved to pursue individual research and study projects.

Institutes are for [approximately] 25 Summer Scholars, andprovide intensive collaborative study of texts, topics, and ideas central to undergraduate teaching in the humanities under the guidance of faculties distinguished in their fields of scholarship.  Institutes aim to prepare participants to return to their classrooms with a deeper knowledge of current scholarship in key fields of the humanities.

The use of the words “seminar” or “institute” in this document is precise and is intended to convey differences between the two project types. [Ours is an NEH Institute, so “seminar” details in these instructions do not apply. — e.p.]

Please note: An individual may apply to up to two projects (NEH Summer Seminars, or NEH Summer Institutes), but may participate in only one.


A selection committee reads and evaluates all properly completed applications in order to select the most promising applicants and to identify a number of alternates.  (Seminar selection committees typically consist of the project director and two colleagues.  Institute selection committees typically consist of three to five members, usually drawn from the institute faculty and staff members.)

The most important consideration in the selection of participants is the likelihood that an applicant will benefit professionally.  This is determined by committee members from the conjunction of several factors, each of which should be addressed in the application essay.  These factors include:

1.  quality and commitment as a teacher, scholar, and interpreter of the humanities;

2.  intellectual interests, in general and as they relate to the work of the seminar or institute;

3.  special perspectives, skills, or experiences that would contribute to the seminar or institute;

4.  commitment to participate fully in the formal and informal collegial life of the seminar or institute;

5.  the likelihood that the experience will enhance the applicant’s teaching and scholarship; and

6.  for seminars, the conception and organization of the applicant’s independent project and its potential contribution to the seminar.

Recent participants are eligible to apply, but selection committees are charged to give first consideration to applicants who have not participated in an NEH-supported Seminar, Institute or Landmarks Workshop in the last three years (2012, 2013, 2014).  When choices must be made among equally qualified candidates, several additional factors are considered.  Preference is given to applicants who have not previously participated in an NEH Summer Seminar, Institute, or Landmarks Workshop, or who significantly contribute to the diversity of the seminar or institute.



Individuals selected to participate in five-week projects will receive stipend of $3,900; those in four-week projects will receive $3,300; those in three-week projects will receive $2,700; and those in two-week projects will receive $2,100.  Stipends are intended to help cover travel expenses to and from the project location, lodging, books and other research expenses, and ordinary living expenses. Stipends are taxable.  Applicants to all projects, especially those held abroad, should note that supplements will not be given in cases where the stipend is insufficient to cover all expenses.

Seminar and institute participants are required to attend all meetings and to engage fully as professionals in the work of the project.  During the project’s tenure, they may not undertake teaching assignments or any other professional activities unrelated to their participation in the project.  Participants who, for any reason, do not complete the full tenure of the project must refund a pro-rata portion of the stipend.

At the end of the project’s residential period, NEH Summer Scholars will be asked to submit online evaluations in which they review their work during the summer and assess its value to their personal and professional development.  These evaluations will become part of the project’s grant file.



Before you attempt to complete an application, please study the project website, which contains detailed information about the topic under study, project requirements and expectations of the participants, the academic and institutional setting, and specific provisions for lodging and subsistence. All application materials must be sent to the project director at the address listed on the project website. Application materials sent to the Endowment will not be reviewed.



A complete application consists of the following collated items:

  • the completed application cover sheet,
  • a detailed résumé, curriculum vitae, or brief biography with contact information for two professional references, and
  • an application essay as outlined below.
  • [a 100-200 word short professional biography, plus a 100-200 word summary of the project you intend to pursue while resident at the institute]
  • [two letters of reference, provided by their authors directly to]


The application cover sheet

The application cover sheet must be filled out online at this address:

IMPORTANT!  Please follow the prompts.  Before you click the “submit” button, print out the cover sheet and add it to your application package.  Then click “submit.”  At this point you will be asked if you want to fill out a cover sheet for another project.  If you do, follow the prompts to select the other project and repeat the process.

Note that filling out a cover sheet is not the same as applying, so there is no penalty for changing your mind and filling out cover sheets for several projects.  A full application consists of the items listed above, as sent to the project director.

You must submit a separate cover sheet online for each project to which you are applying in order to generate a unique tracking number for each application. Do not copy and paste a new cover sheet.

Résumé and References

Please include a detailed résumé, curriculum vitae, or brief biography (not to exceed five pages).

Be sure the résumé provides the name, title, phone number, and e-mail address of two professional references.


The Application Essay

The application essay should be no more than [1600 words].  This essay should include any relevant personal and academic information.  It should address reasons for applying; the applicant’s interest, both academic and personal, in the subject to be studied; qualifications and experiences that equip the applicant to do the work of the seminar or institute and to make a contribution to a learning community; a statement of what the applicant wants to accomplish by participating; and the relation of the project to the applicant’s professional responsibilities.

  • Applicants to seminars should be sure to discuss any independent study project that is proposed beyond the common work of the seminar.
  • Applicants to institutes may need to elaborate on the relationship between institute activities and their responsibilities for teaching and curricular development.



Completed applications should be submitted to the project director, not the NEH, and should be postmarked no later than March 2, 2015.

Successful applicants will be notified of their selection on Monday, March 30, 2015, and they will have until Friday, April 3 to accept or decline the offer.

Once you have accepted an offer to attend any NEH Summer Program (NEH Summer Seminar, Institute or Landmarks Workshop), you may not accept an additional offer or withdraw in order to accept a different offer.



Endowment programs do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age.  For further information, write to the Equal Opportunity Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities, 400 7th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024.  TDD:  202/606‑8282 (this is a special telephone device for the Deaf).


Please direct applications to


For more information please contact:

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