Duke Political Oracles - A portrait series highlighting undergraduate vision


The Duke Political Oracles is a series of undergraduate portraits of political science majors in their junior and senior year.  Following oracle metaphors from classical antiquity, this portrait series dramatizes what clairvoyance may have looked like.  Student participants complimented these portraits with quotes about their research interests, written in a style meant to dramatize the scale of their concern, and the breadth of their interests. 

Our legal system assumes that there is a man behind every curtain— that for every legal harm there is a bonafide legal agent who can be held responsible. Yet, rapid technological change means that more and more litigable decisions are being made by algorithms— algorithms whose reasoning is inscrutable even to their creators. I see a world where our legal frameworks struggle to provide remedies to substantive harms—who do you sue if you are denied a job by a racist hiring algorithm? What if there is no man behind the curtain, after all, but only a machine? - Sarah Sibley, class of '19
"The landscape of global inequality has been shaped over millennia by forces larger than us. Societies do not choose their geographic fortunes and natural resource endowments; nor do they choose the institutions and capital they inherit from their forefathers. Yet the fate of nations is also decided by the choices and policy actions of political agents in the present. I see a future of rising global inequality, and more than ever, it is vital to understand these forces of divergence to turn the tides of history towards a more equal distribution of prosperity." - Hannah Wang, class of '18
"The trouble with identity politics is that everyone has an identity. On the global stage, I see identity politics being used both to protect marginalized communities and to strengthen ethnocentric, reactionary forces. If we consider identity to be the final word in our debates, then there is no space for discussion. Having a rich identity should furnish us with the arguments needed to represent home and hearth. But the identity does not constitute an argument in itself. Identity should be the beginning of debate, not the end." - Aron Rimanyi, class of '18
"The issue is not that West Bank land cannot be divided in a fair and objective manner, but that most world leaders and negotiators do not have a tool by which they can analyze land divisions to avoid defections. I see the problem become unvexed by abstractions from historical turmoil and narrative. If we use a criteria in which objective physical realities, such as population, distance, and topography become composite scores for each West Bank settlement, we can limit each actor's role in the decision-making process. And by using tangible data to limit negotiations, there are fewer opportunities for actor defections and negotiation collapse." - John Villa, class of '17
"The future of coalitions, from bootleggers to baptists, will be precarious as developed economies shape an increasingly specialized workforce. So the question for policy makers is how to shape incentives so that new concentrated coalitions win policy goals but do not extract rent and monopolize. The worry is that policy determines outcomes, and I see policy's complexity as a weapon of the elite." - Anjelica Hubbard, class of '17
"When immigration policy is just a branch on the tree of diplomacy, I see it wither into a geopolitical question: what makes a good immigrant? When the political identification of immigrants became a consideration for entrance, it opened the door for a thread of discourse that has spun immigrants into the scapegoat for economic destabilization caused instead by globalization and automation. But what makes a good immigrant, answered through a moral process, has little to do with where you are from, and more to do with where you are going in life." - Logan Laguna-Kirkpatrick, class of '18
"Just because an African has a bandolier across his shoulder and child soldiers at his back doesn't make him a mad man; I see a political calculation to all this. But to tell his story you have to weed out their propaganda, and ours. So to corroborate truths on the ground, find a beat, stick to it, and dive deep." - Rajiv Golla, class of '17
"Legal actors bring to the bench their own preconceptions of sexual assault. I see two problems: attitudes and the law. Social norms and the legacy of problematic laws have meant that most victims don't receive any semblance of justice." - Dana Raphael, class of '17
"You cannot remove the head of hate without addressing the roots that nurture the obstacles to human rights: poor education and vast economic disparities. These thorns protect a path toward nationalism. I see future refugee crises as a multgenerational test of our fragile, collective integrity." - Susie Xu, class of '17
"I see emerging skepticism around the validity of data and the polititicization of scientific research. There is both more data to mine but also more sophisticated methodologies such that policy intervention can be both nuanced and probably more accurate and yet there is growing distrust that these proposals are valid. One of the challenges for the next generation of leaders will be to reconcile public distrust with published trustworthiness." - Tanner Lockhead, class of '17
“Open markets disrupt cultural identities, but in the best possible way. This is not to say that our identities as merchants can replace our identities as citizens. But I expect to see short-sighted political actors leveraging citizenship status ineffectually in the future." - Apara Sivaraman, class of `17