2022-24 Lender Faculty Fellow

Mona Bhan

Mona Bhan is an associate professor of anthropology and Ford-Maxwell Professor of South Asian Studies in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Bhan studies artificial intelligence (AI) weaponry through the lens of a cultural anthropologist, believing that those systems can transform the realities of autonomy, accountability, human rights and justice. Bhan will further explore this with an interdisciplinary team of students and faculty in her Lender Center for Social Justice faculty fellowship project.

While proponents of AI weapons emphasize the humanitarian benefits of autonomous systems in wars, opponents adopt a human rights-centered approach focused on the importance of maintaining human control over the use of force, she says.

“This project challenges the unquestioned assumptions in claims of humanitarianism and human rights and examines how technologies are reconfiguring what it means to be human and transforming global negotiations over free will, autonomy, accountability, societal harm, citizenship and sovereignty,” Bhan says.

The research team will use collaborative documentation, GIS-enabled mapping and immersive media techniques to study precisely how artificial intelligence weapons and systems may bring about social and political changes. Bhan will conduct the project along with other University faculty, University centers such as the Autonomous Systems Policy Institute and a group of Lender Center student fellows to analyze and disseminate findings on the social justice implications of AI weaponry. The project is part of a larger research and advocacy project Bhan is carrying out with her longtime collaborator, Haley Duschinski, of Ohio University.

Before coming to Syracuse in 2019, Bhan taught at DePauw University as the Otto L. Sonder Jr. Chair of Anthropology. She received a Ph.D. in anthropology from Rutgers University in 2006, a M.Sc. in anthropology from Delhi University, India, in 1999 and a B.Sc. in zoology from Delhi University in 1997.