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Research and Media

Faculty Grant Projects

Cover Not My Blood: Humanitarianism, Brutality, Disease, and Denial in the Building of a French Colonial Railroad in the Congo

James P Daughton, Associate Professor of Modern European History, Department of History


No better example of a colonial humanitarian project going awry can be found than the building of the railroad between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire in the French Congo during the interwar years.  Colonial boosters spent decades lobbying the government to build the 500-kilometer railway between Stanley Pool on the Congo River and the coast.  They promised that only a railroad could bring the economic growth needed to pull a region associated with savagery into the light of modernity.  But this transformation came at a staggering cost.  Relying heavily on forced Africans laborers, Frenchmen spent a decade laying rail through unforgiving forest.  By its completion, at least 20,000 African laborers had perished.  Labor recruiters used brutal tactics to find workers, including burning women and children alive to force men to work.  Appalling conditions on the construction site caused thousands to die of dysentery.  And overcrowded quarters, combined with the presence of female sex workers, exposed many Africans to a disease unknown at the time – a disease epidemiologists now speculate was AIDS.

Entirely forgotten today, the Congo-Océan railroad caused an outpouring of criticism from missionaries, international organizations, and writers like André Gide, the future Nobel laureate.  Nonetheless, defenders of empire insisted that the railroad would end the misery of the African people.  This book, then, explores the ethics of humanitarianism, as well as shifting emotional and political perceptions of suffering – issues crucial to how we think about aid and development today.

J. P. Daughton is Associate Professor of Modern European History at Stanford and the co-director of the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities post-doctoral program.  He is the author of An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880-1914, and a co-editor of In God’s Empire: French Missionaries and the Modern World, both published by Oxford University Press.


Giving for Global Poverty Relief: Ethical and Empirical Dimensions

Rob Reich, Associate Professor of Political Science, Director of the Program in Ethics in Society


More than a billion people live in poverty and, on average, more than two thousand people die of poverty-related causes each hour. In response, aid organizations are working to alleviate poverty and the dire need associated with it. But much remains to be done, and many aid organizations could do much more to alleviate poverty, were they to receive more funding from individual contributions and/or governments. But many aid projects waste large amounts of resources, fail to do anywhere near the amount of good they set out to do, and/or have harmful unintended consequences.

It is in these circumstances that we confront a host of extremely pressing and difficult moral and empirical questions: Are we morally obligated to contribute to aid efforts? If so, in what way? And to what extent? And to which aid efforts? Are some types of aid more effective than others? If so, which ones? Is it morally permissible to contribute to an aid effort that is close to your heart but known to do much less good than other aid efforts? What explains why many well off people don’t contribute to poverty relief at all, and why others don’t 
give more than they do? 
 Should governments play a leading role in providing aid? In providing certain types of aid? Does the answer to this depend only on how effective government aid would be or do other considerations, such as concerns about paternalism and respecting autonomy, come into play?

This grant funds a conference featuring Peter Singer, whose work on these and related questions has motivated and framed work on this topic for over three decades. The aims of this conference are to (1) provide a public presentation of Singer’s latest work on these questions, (2) make further progress on them by bringing together, in a series of smaller sessions, experts on various aspects of the topic, and (3) foster future cooperation among the participants.

Rob Reich is Associate Professor of Political Science and, by courtesy, in Philosophy and at the School of Education. He is a faculty Co-Director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and the Director of the Program in Ethics in Society. His main interests are in political theory and he is currently completing a book on ethics, public policy, and philanthropy. He is the author of "Bridging Liberalism and Multiculturalism in American Education," co-author of "Democracy at Risk: How Political Choices Undermine Citizen Participation," and co-editor of "Toward a Humanist Justice: The Political Philosophy of Susan Moller Okin."  Reich is the recipient of several teaching awards, including the Phi Beta Kappa Undergraduate Teaching Award and the Walter J. Gores Award, Stanford University.


Health Services in schools: From cost-effectiveness analysis to distributional justice. What can we learn from successful cases to improve nurses-to-student ratio in California’s public schools?

Eunice Rodriguez, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics


The number of school age children with special health care needs keeps increasing and it is close to 20% nationwide. Emerging research provides strong evidence of the positive impact of school nurses on students health and academic outcomes.  Yet, the Healthy People 2020 standard of 1 nurse to 750 students is rarely met by public schools.  California is ranked 45th in the nation, with only 3,000 school nurses serving 6.3 million public school children. Most schools are unable to bear the cost of school nurses, and cost savings are shared by schools, parents, employers, and medical care systems.  Providing appropriate education to all students can be argued on ethical and legal grounds.

Our project aims to identify successful districts/states that implement the recommended nurses-to-students ratio to provide practical evidence on how to implement the recommended nurses-to-students ratio, within a distributional justice framework. We will also explore processes to support implementation of recommended nurses-to-students ratio by bringing together a group of experts to develop and disseminate policy briefs. A working conference is planned for May 2015. Resulting Expert Policy Briefs will be disseminated, and the stablished expert network is expected to continue engaging in future collaborations.

Eunice Rodriguez' teaching and research coalesce around issues of health disparities integrating her expertise in social epidemiology, within the broader area of public health, and program planning and evaluation. After working as a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health and teaching at Cornell University, her interest has most recently evolved around school health issues, with particular reference to the health needs of children and diverse communities. Rodriguez is with the Division of General Pediatrics in the Stanford Medical School, a faculty affiliate with the Clayman Institute for Gender research, the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, and core faculty for school and community health at the Center for Policy, Outcomes and Prevention.


Just War Doctrine and American Public Opinion: Experiments on Due Care and Distinction

Scott D. Sagan, Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science


This project seeks to understand the extent to which the American public supports or does not support important principles of just war doctrine.  Through a series of survey experimentsabout potential military operations in Afghanistan, given to a representative sample of the U.S. public, we will first examine how Americans view the “due care” principle: to what degree does the public accept risks to U.S. soldiers in order to minimize collateral non-combatant deaths and how does the nationality of the non-combatants in question influence public willingness to risk U.S. soldiers’ lives?  In addition, we will conduct an experiment about the principle of distinction (often called “the non-combatant immunity principle”), measuring the degree to which the U.S. public supports deliberately targeting Afghan civilians if they are told that destroying a village that had permitted the Taliban to place a chemical facility inside it will signal other neighboring villages not to permit the Taliban into their villages. 

Scott D. Sagan is the Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science, the Mimi and Peter Haas University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, and Senior Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University. He also serves as Project Chair for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Initiative on New Dilemmas in Ethics, Technology, and War and as Co-Project Director of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Global Nuclear Future Initiative. Sagan is the author of Moving Targets: Nuclear Strategy and National Security (Princeton University Press, 1989), The Limits of Safety: Organizations, Accidents, and Nuclear Weapons (Princeton University Press, 1993), and, with co-author Kenneth N. Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: An Enduring Debate (W.W. Norton, 2012).


Moral Reform, Public Virtue, and Literature: China and the West

Ban Wang, William Haas Professor in Chinese Studies, East Asian Languages and Comparative Literature


This project considers the way moral reforms in modern China resonate with civic virtue in republicanism. At the turn of the 20th century, the Chinese thinker Liang Qichaocalled for a revolution in morality so that China would become a nation-state composed of citizens with civic commitment and virtue. Equipped with public morality and devoted to the common good, a morally empowered people are the key to a strong modern nation-state.

In Confucian thinking, a good political order emanates from a set of moral precepts, which must be realized in ritual, music, education, the moral exemplariness of leaders, and policy for people’s wellbeing. The Confucian phrase “Maintain order by resort to morality” (“wei zheng yi de”) illustrates this morally driven political order.

This project will compare civic virtue in the West with Liang’s notion of public morality, gongde. Public morality begins with the ties of family and kin but transcends them to attend a broad morality and sociality. By gongde Liang refers as much to the citizen’s virtue as to the widening Confucian spiral of obligation of each individual to others and to the community. This morality requires the empathetic imagination of social members to reach out and empathize with others. In this regard, literature is an institution of moral education. By expanding individual’s empathetic imagination, literature fosters the moral quality requisite of the new citizen. Along with morality as key to social order, literature forges a community of shared sense and sensibility. An international workshop and a graduate seminar are planned for this project.

Ban Wang, is the William Haas Professor in Chinese Studies and the chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and Comparative Literature.He was also the Yangtze River Chair Professor at East China Normal University in Shanghai. His major publications include The Sublime Figure of History: Aesthetics and Politics in Twentieth –Century China  (Stanford UP 1997), Illuminations from the Past (Stanford UP 2004), and History and Memory (in Chinese, Oxford UP, 2004).  He was a research fellow with the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2000 and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton in 2007. He has taught at Beijing Foreign Studies University, SUNY-Stony Brook, Harvard University, Rutgers University, Seoul National University, and E. China Normal University.  


The KGB Reflects: Ethical Dilemmas of Surveillance in a Totalitarian Regime

Amir Weiner, Associate Professor, Department of History


The recent debates over the NSA’s surveillance programs have brought to the fore key issues of state-citizen relations, and in particular, the tension between national security and theright to privacy. This tension, however, is not the exclusive domain of liberal democracies. Similar themes have pervaded even totalitarian polities where state surveillance was a pillar of the system and accepted as a given. Based on 15 interviews with former generals, mid-ranking officers, interrogators and rank-and-file agents, The KGB Reflects aims at better understanding of KGB servicemen’s motivations and how they dealt with ethical dilemmas. Notably, several of these individuals continued serving in the now independent sovereign states, thus offering and even richer perspective on the ethics of surveillance. The project examines how do the individuals involved, many of whom understood that they engaged in unethical activities, even by the norms of the Soviet state, justify their actions, be it blackmail, coercion and intimidation? Did they feel a sense of accountability? Why did they volunteer for an agency that had already gained notoriety? What did they know and what did they want to know about their constituencies? How did they obtain information and recruit informants? How did they cope with the constant exposure to sensitive information that was officially banned, such as foreign media and illegal publications by dissidents? How did they adjust to the decline in the party-state authority and the rise of dissent and the information revolution in the 1980s? How did they evaluate their own performance especially in light of the eventual collapse? Finally, and most relevant to present-day events, when did the obsessive gathering of information turn against them?

Amir Weiner is Associate Professor of History at Stanford University. He is the author of “Making Sense of War” (2001); “Landscaping the Human Garden” (2003); and numerous articles and edited volumes on the impact of WWII on the Soviet polity, social history of the WWII, Soviet frontier politics, population politics and state surveillance. His book, “The KGB: Ruthless Sword, Imperfect Shield” is due in 2015.