School of Health and Human Sciences

Trading Uncertainty: The Refugee Dilemma

Dr. Ali Askerov

Dr. Askerov is engaged in a research project regarding the present day refugee crisis. The initial research about the issue pertains the needs satisfaction and identity change of the Syrian refugees living in the streets of Istanbul.

  • In lieu of long expected liberties in the Middle East, war, violence, and terror came to the region with the waves of the Arab Spring. Syria has appeared to be the worst country in the crisis zone in terms of violence against civilians. The revolution has acquired a character of civil war forcing millions to flee their homes. Although the immediate effects have felt in the neighboring countries, the crisis has brought about risks and challenges worldwide.
    The refugee crisis of the Middle East has triggered economic and security problems both in the region and the West. Undoubtedly, dealing with the refugee problems is costly. For example, as of December 2015, Turkey was the world’s main refugee hosting country with close to 2.5 million Syrian refugees. The Turkish government has spent more than 8 billion Euros since 2011 on direct assistance to them.
  • The security problems associated with refugee problems are interpreted as even more important. Many governments and political circles in the West have opposed refugee settlements in their countries for security reasons. Some terrorist acts, such as the Paris event of November 2015, have been examples for justification of their refugee policies.
  • However, the result is clear and unequivocal: civilians suffer severely. They flee their homes in hopes of finding safe havens, but while trying to pass the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, they drown; in some countries, they are kicked out; in others, they are blocked with police shields. New crises emerge out of old ones.
  • The design of this qualitative study is flexible. The research has two particular goals: (1) studying how marginal conditions affect identities; (2) examining how basic human needs and identity change are correlated.

Understanding the Middle-Eastern Predicament: Independent Non-Fiction vs. Dominant Media Systems

  • Dr. Askerov is engaged in a research project regarding the role of non-fiction in explaining and understanding the contemporary Middle East predicament, despite the suppressing dominant media role.
  • Many documentary films, like public actors, have spoken truthfully about power’s roles in making conflicts to audiences that need to know in order to act. The dialectic of life in a public sphere often entails a struggle of different power foci, which also include independent non-fiction and dominant media systems. Each of them with its own agenda, goals, and principles adopts a way of speaking about their positions, policies, attitudes, and goals, among other things. Generally, documentary films make significant contribution to the creation of public discourses of war, peace, and justice, which is important for positive change.
  • The dominant media systems are powerful because the state or corporations support them in many respects, including financially. Commonly, political powers use the means of media, including documentary films, as a tool to reach their own objectives. The power of media goes beyond the influence they exercise over audiences, involving the broader framework of the social, cultural, political, as well as economic power structures of society.
  • The content, form, and broadcasting method of the information may reasonably influence the interpretation of news and therefore the persuasive effects of them among the audiences. Bidding to understand the crisis of the Middle East in the late modern times through independent non-fiction films would be fundamentally different from trying to perceive it by means of data offered by dominant media systems.

New Modes of Antagonistic Policy

  • With Dr. Matyok and Dr. Loboda, Dr. Askerov is engaged in analyzing the contemporary modes of antagonizing policy modern state employs. The research provides an historical background framing a context for the analysis, presents issues of a cognitive strategic culture, and analyzes emerging modes of antagonistic policy through the use of contemporary case studies such as Ukraine and Syria.
  • The study makes recommendations for policymakers and researchers regarding operational and strategic responses to evolving modes of antagonistic policy.

Contending Interests of Russia and Turkey over Syria

  • In this research initiative, Dr. Askerov seeks to explain the root causes of the deteriorating Russian-Turkish relations due to the Syrian crisis, as well as their negative effects on civilian lives and regional security.
  • This research project considers both local and global aspects of the conflict and stresses the complex nature of the issue.

Dr. Jeremy Rinker-

Dr. Rinker is currently engaged in research that explores the intersections between marginalization, collective trauma, and systems of oppression (such as social norms and practices associated with our current neoliberal economic order).

  • Dr. Rinker’s research and writings have long focused on South Asian communities, untouchability, human rights, and narrative meaning making in social justice movements. Jeremy’s work emphasizes the skills and practices of nonviolent conflict transformation in decision making and identity formation. Below are a select few of his recent and upcoming publications:
  • Rinker, Jeremy. Forthcoming (November 2018). Identity, Right, and Awareness: Anti-Caste Activism in India and the Awakening of Justice through Discursive Practices. Lexington Books (an imprint of Rowan and Littlefield) ISBN: 978-1-4985-4193-0

Identity, Rights, and Awareness opens a much needed critical analysis of subaltern Dalit voice in India. Filling a gap in comparative analysis of the connections between anticaste social movement, communal identities, and marginalized voice, this book argues for the important role of narrative agency and discursive strategy in contending against oppressive systems.

On-going Participatory Research and Community Engagement Projects Include the following:

Bhutanese Health and Wellness Project

  • The Bhutanese Health and Wellness (BHW) Project rests on the theory that healthy lifestyle and wellness cannot be transformed without recurrent social and anthropological engagement with past formative experiences.
  • Developing an ethnographic understanding of refugees past experiences with food choices and personal histories of displacement assists the community in understanding the current unhealthy lifestyles and stressors that they face.
  • Our inter-disciplinary study enlists Bhutanese community leaders in a community-based participatory action research (C-BPAR) project to understand and develop the innate wellness and resilience capacities within their own community, with the ultimate goal of developing a lifestyle intervention to reduce the high rates of chronic diseases and suicide in this community.

The BHW project aims to develop a broad understanding of community health by:

  • Interviewing Bhutanese families in Greensboro and High Point about their food habits and their refugee displacement experiences;
  • Engaging the community to take pictures as a way to share their life stories and stressors;
  • Organizing opportunities to come together and share photos and stories of their lives across geographic, generational, and religious difference.

Bhutanese are the largest South Asian refugee group settled in the U.S (~80,000), consisting mostly (60%) of adults aged 15–44 years old. Prior to resettlement in the U.S., Bhutanese refugees spent years in displaced persons camps in Nepal. These experiences left a collective sense of trauma and identity in this population, which along with poor dietary habits, contributes to poor community health outcomes. The BHW project aims to understand and ameliorate these root causes of poor health.

Circles of Practice and Pedagogy Learning Community

  • As a UNCG 2018 Institute for Community and Economic Engagement (ICEE) Faculty Fellow, Dr. Rinker is anchoring a learning community of practice that is exploring how circle-based facilitated dialogue (also called Native American Council, Community Conferencing, Restorative Conferencing, Family Group Conferencing, or Circles of Accountability and Support, among other names) can develop democratic and responsive community, as well as, build civic engagement and resilience.
  • As an important social technology, this circle about circles brings the University together with the wider community with the aim of spreading circle dialogue techniques, practices, and skills. Community activists, institutions, and civic interest groups use this work as a springboard for developing community dialogue and peacebuilding.
  • With Dr. Daniel Rhodes, PhD, LCSW and Bachelor of Social Work Director, Department of Social Work at UNCG, Dr. Rinker is engaged developing circle dialogues at Open Door Ministries in High Point.
  • This short-term men’s shelter has experienced violence in the past and is actively looking for alternatives to violence. Circle processes represent an ideal way to model and develop a new culture of caring and peace at the shelter. Shelter residents work together with shelter staff and UNCG faculty (Rinker and Rhodes) to practice circles and reflect on their efficacy in dealing with conflicts that arise.
  • At Dudley High School in Greensboro, NC, Dr. Rinker is partnering with Dr. Michael Hemphill, PhD Department of Kinesiology at UNCG to develop health and physical education curriculum in conflict transformation.
  • This program, which partners with the Community in Schools office, as well as, the Health and Physical Education program at Dudley High School uses both movement-based embodiment practices and restorative justice circle processes to teach freshman students mindful ways to engage in social conflict.

Journal of Transdisciplinary Peace Praxis

  • Dr. Rinker serves as the editor of the Journal of Transdisciplinary Peace Praxis (JTPP). JTPP, is a peer-reviewed, biannual, scholarly journal, with both in print and on-line versions, bringing together peace practitioners with academics to explore radical responses to social conflict, war and injustice.
  • As a new scholarly journal of contemplative cutting edge research and practice on subjects related to human social flourishing and peace, JTPP has already had a significant impact. Published by Frontpage Publications Limited, UK, JTPP has created a much needed transdisciplinary space to discuss and analyze the world’s most complex and protracted issues and social conflicts.
  • The journal has, in its short life, tackled such wicked problems as environmental degradation and the human cost of protracted social conflict. Working with Frontpage’s founder and owner, Dr. Rinker has developed an advisory board, produced two calls for papers, and grown the journal as a viable business venture and repository of academic collaboration and innovation.
  • Look Journal of Transdisciplinary Peace Praxis for more Information.

Realizing Nonviolent Resilience: Neoliberalism, Societal Trauma, and Marginalized Voice

  • With co-author Dr. Jerry Lawler, Dr. Rinker is exploring the current neoliberal social and economic realities that have had enormous impacts on the abilities of oppressed groups and marginalized communities to realize resistance and develop innate social resiliencies.
  • In an edited book project, the aim is to bring together a collection of conflict theorists, peacebuilding practitioners, mental health activists, and social science scholar/practitioners interested in the complicated and dynamic intersections between trauma, nonviolent resistance, and the marginalized realities of modern life.
  • Particular emphasis in this project is focused on the ascendant context of neoliberal ideology in the early 21st century by asking what can the poor and marginalized do to resist such powerful forces? Following on the coeditors previous work on collective trauma as a societal level cause of protracted social conflict (cited in publications above), this project endeavors to bring together practitioners interested in the complex interrelationships between the forces of neoliberalism and collective trauma, particularly as they relate to traditionally marginalized populations and systems of oppression.

Liquid Philosophy

  • Alongside UNCG professors Justin Harmon, PhD, Department of Community and Therapeutic and Recreation, and Marianne LeGreco, PhD Department of Communication Studies, Dr. Rinker (PCS) has launched a new podcast called Liquid Philosophy where a “rag-tag bunch of academics have a few drinks and interview professors, deans, and other folks making strides in academia.” Now in the second season, this podcast is both fun and informative of the current state of academia!
  • Dr. Rinker also coordinates a partnership with the City of Greensboro to assist in conciliation of conflict between landlords and tenants. The City’s Human Relations Department and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Department of Peace and Conflict Studies (UNCG/PCS) have formed a partnership to help landlords and tenants iron out their differences through mediation rather than litigation. 
  • The program is voluntary and can provide opportunities for tenants and landlords to eliminate communication barriers and work together with the help of UNCG PCS students.
  • Issues that can be mediated include, but are not limited to, damaged property, noise complaints, repairs, and financial problems. This innovative partnership continues to provide practice opportunities for UNCG students and a benefit to city residents.


Dr. Emily Janke-

Dr. Janke’s scholarship addresses multiple aspects of community engagement focused on community-university partnerships, and institutional culture and change strategies.

  • In particular, she focuses on the recognition of community-engaged scholarship in reappointment, promotion and tenure policies; the role of conflict management and transformation in community-university partnerships; institutional support for community engagement; innovations in scholarly communications; and reciprocity, collaborative communication, and restorative practices as aspects of high quality, ethical community engagement, and tracking and measuring community engagement and public service within and across institutions of higher education for the purpose of advancing community and university priorities strategically and collaboratively.

Communication and Conflict in Community-University Partnerships

  • Dr. Janke collaborates with Dr. Rebecca Dumlao (Professor in the School of Communication at Eastern Carolina University) and Santos Flores, MA ’16 (Graduate Student in Kinesiology at UNC Greensboro) to examine the role of relational dialectics in community-university partnerships.
  • They argue that it can be helpful to view tensions among community members as normal and natural aspects of relationships that can be managed or transformed rather than as problems to be eliminated.
  • Dialectical tensions present in community-university partnerships can be managed effectively through learning conversations. With the intention to expand research on conflict in community-university partnership to support the practical professional development of colleagues working in and through community engagement, they argue that conflict management is not about learning a single model or a specific script to “end all conflicts.”  Instead, conflict management involves developing competency with constructive practices through intentional, sustained effort.

Community-Engaged Scholarship in Promotion and Tenure Policies and Practices

  • Throughout her more than a decade as a scholar-administrator in the area of community engagement at UNC Greensboro, Dr. Janke has supported and studied, as a form of action research, the cultural and policy changes that have taken place between 2008 and 2017, during which time faculty deliberated, adopted, and implemented promotion and tenure policies at the university, unit, and department levels to recognize and reward community-engaged scholarship.
  • UNCG is the only one of approximately 50 universities nationwide (and internationally) that are classified by the Carnegie Foundation as high research activity and as community engaged to have revised its promotion and tenure guidelines across all policy levels (department, unit, university).  
  • Dr. Janke explores and describes the importance of activities and initiatives that allow faculty to believe that community engagement is valued and legitimate faculty work that is core to the mission – and identity – of the university.
  • This scholarship shares lessons from UNCG’s experiences, and most importantly, what its next steps must be taken towards authentic community engagement, as defined by “mutually-beneficial partnerships in a context of reciprocity” (Carnegie definition).
  • This scholarship explores diversity, equity and inclusion, nontenure/contingent track faculty, inter and transdisciplinarity, and redefining scholarly “impact”.

Tracking and Measuring Community Engagement

  • Dr. Janke studies and designs metrics and data systems to better understand institutional portraits of community engagement. This work support administrative leadership, as well as research designed to track community-university relationships as a way to increase understanding, communication, and connections across faculty, staff, and students, as well as among departments, centers, offices, and the community at large.
  • Dr. Janke has done this as member of Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning’s National Advisory Panel for the Community Engagement Classification, chair and lead author of the Combined Report of the Community Engagement and Economic Development Task Force: Indicators for measuring the progress and impact of community engagement and economic development by the University of North Carolina System” (2013), and as co-author of Collaboratory®, an online platform to track and report institutional community engagement and public service data, among other activities and roles.

Institutionalization of Community Engagement in Higher Education

  • Dr. Janke’s scholar administrator work, as director of the Institute for Community and Economic Engagement, serves to study and promote community engagement within UNCG and beyond as a distinctive and transformative approach to teaching, research, creative activity, and service, which requires collaborative and reciprocal partnerships.
  • She, along with colleagues, achieve this through pursuing active research and scholarship, supporting institutional strategic initiatives, and providing professional development opportunities. Dr. Janke and the Institute promotes community engagement as a strategy to positively and sustainably transform communities, including academic ones, in ways that matter.
  • She has co-authored scholarship on: a decade of building the School of Health and Human Sciences as a community-engaged school at UNC Greensboro, and aligning community and university strengths and priorities.

Restorative Youth Sports

  • Dr. Emily Janke is co-researcher alongside Dr. Michael Hemphill to examine conflict resolution as a missing component of professional development programs offered to future and current coaches, physical education teachers, and others who engage youth through sport.
  • This community-engaged, interdisciplinary study develops synergies between Hemphill’s scholarship in Sport-based Youth Development (SBYD), which focuses on research-based frameworks to empower youth sport providers to implement effective pedagogy in ways that are responsive to local contexts, and Janke’s scholarship that focuses on partnerships and community engagement methodologies to build community-university relationships and capacities for mutual benefit. Collaborators include researchers at the The Diana Unwin Chair in Restorative Justice and the Faculty of Education at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW), as well as leaders and practitioners of community-, school-, and government-based sport programs.


Dr. Marcia Hale-

Dr. Hale focuses her work at the intersection of social and environmental conflict. She is especially concerned with associated social brutalities, including racist and patriarchal oppression.

  • Her current research explores environmental change, global social justice and humanistic approaches, with the goal of identifying systems and practices that can serve to mitigate and mediate conflict in cities and other locales.  

Natural Resources and Social Change in Cape Town

  • In 2017-18, Cape Town, South Africa was feared to be the first major city to run out of water. The “Day Zero” water crisis resulted in residents using public water available through common fountains and taps.
  • As common water sources are rare in major, modern cities, Dr. Hale is interested in the role public water played in the crisis. Through investigating relationships between natural resources, food/water access, and social justice, she is exploring evolving narratives driving social change. 

Refugee and Migrant Movement in Barcelona

  • Global migration, fueled by political, economic and environmental conflict, is the displacement of people from their home regions and countries. Each year, hundreds of millions migrate within national and across international boundaries seeking better assurance of survival.
  • Deep social conflicts are associated with this movement, often evident in violent attitudes and behaviors towards migrants. Barcelona, Spain is known as one of the most hospitable cities in Europe towards refugees.
  • However, this hospitality does not necessarily extend to undocumented migrants. The purpose of this study is to understand institutions, practices, attitudes and cultural dynamics associated with migration in Barcelona, with the goal of identifying systems and tools that can be utilized by other cities.

Environmental Justice in North Carolina

  • North Carolina has myriad environmental justice issues including CAFOs, coal ash, fracking, pipelines and landfills. Environmental justice and migration are connected in nuanced ways across the state, including climate change and associated river rise displacing residents of Princeville, the oldest town incorporated by African Americans after emancipation from slavery.
  • Climate change and associated environmental justice issues are also factors in the migration that brings New North Carolinians to the state, just as they can be issues faced here upon arrival.
  • Dr. Hale is a member of the UNCG team collaborating with the Humanities Action Lab (HAL) to produce student-driven research around these issues. She is currently facilitating the production team, which will produce UNCG’s local exhibit for the HAL Environmental Justice project.
  • This project includes 23 universities and their community partners producing local stories and exhibits around the theme. These 23 local stories will be brought together into a public art exhibit that will travel the world for three years, raising awareness of global environmental change and environmental justice issues.



Dr. Joe Cole-

Virtue Ethics, Just War Theory, and the Morality of War

Dr. Cole is studying the morality of war and the limits of traditional Just War Theory.  Through examining the ethics of self-defense, the challenges of civilian protection in conflict zones, and the impact of war on both combatants and non-combatants, Dr. Cole has concluded that traditional Just War Theory justifies war too easily while undervaluing the lives and experiences of soldiers and civilians, those whom war affects the most.  

  • As an alternative to Just War Theory, Dr. Cole is developing a focus on character, virtue, ecology, and community as a more compelling framework for understanding the morality of war.  Dr. Cole’s ethical framework proposes an expanded account of key virtues like compassion; a broad and evolving picture of human good and flourishing; a view of humans as embodied, relational, and communal; an ecological dimension of ethics and virtue; and an emphasis on Social Justice as an essential virtue.
  •  This Virtue Ethics framework offers an understanding of human well-being that illuminates the harms and devastation of war to reveal that war is essentially a calamity, both a humanitarian disaster and a moral catastrophe. The calamitous nature of war is not sufficiently acknowledged in Just War Theory, yet must be addressed to provide an adequate moral evaluation of war.

The Ideal Speech Situation and the Shift from Diversity to Racial Equity in the Intentional Community Movement

  • Dr. Cole is investigating how intentional communities can shift from general ideals around diversity to specific commitments for addressing racism and fostering racial equity.  
  • The intentional community movement seeks to build neighborhoods and networked organizations that promote values like sustainability, community, and cooperation. While many intentional communities also embrace diversity as a core value, the communities movement in the United States remains largely white.  Dr. Cole is exploring how critical theory and the framework of Communicative Action in the work of Jürgen Habermas can offer a starting point for a shift towards social justice and racial equity.
  • Communication oriented towards reaching an understanding calls us towards an “ideal speech situation” where each participant has equal opportunity to speak, question, and contribute, and where the outcomes of conversations are determined by the force of the best arguments and evidence alongside the authenticity and the value-commitments of the participants.  
  • Dr. Cole is researching how the Ideal Speech Situation illuminates the foundations of discourse in collaborative and consensus-based communities. Together with contemporary work on witnessing whiteness, healing racial trauma, and fostering racial justice, communication oriented towards reaching an understanding can provide a doorway to a deeper engagement with the challenges of diversity, racism, and social justice in intentional communities.

Ecovillages, Regenerative Sustainability, and Social and Ecological Healing

  • Dr. Cole is researching how the emerging framework of Regenerative Sustainability guides the Ecovillage Movement in its goals of restoring and regenerating natural environments in parallel with healing and regenerating human communities.  
  • In recent decades, the Ecovillage Movement has attempted to build a global network of village-scale communities grounded in sustainability, justice, and cooperation. Ecovillages are intentional communities that aspire to regenerate the health and vitality of both social and natural environments.  They are designed through participatory processes to deepen sustainability across all four dimensions (social, ecological, economic, and cultural/worldview). 
  • Ecovillages seek to become self-sustaining and resilient full-featured settlements that balance major functions of living (including residence, food provision, social life, and commerce), while also building strong relations of interdependence through local, regional, and global networks.
  • Dr. Cole is examining case studies of ecovillages around the world, including ecovillages serving environmental refugees and refugees from conflict zones, to study how the ecovillage model along with a Regenerative framework of sustainability can support peacebuilding, conflict prevention, and environmental and social healing.