In Memoriam of Samar Zora

In Memoriam
Samar Zora

Samar sitting on a yellow bench holding a blue backpack.
Photo courtesy of Demi Vrettas

The Chronicle
By Katie Tan
March 27, 2023 |

Anyone who knew doctoral candidate Samar Zora deeply understood that she was an intellectual force to be reckoned with, with an ability to connect with people from all walks of life.

“She was a teacher to all of us … we all learned something very different from her,” said one of Zora’s best friends, Demi Vrettas. “Being together with her friends is kind of like a mirror of all her pieces together.”  Read more. 

Dubie Toa-Kwapong
PhD Candidate | Cultural Anthropology | AAAS

I met Samar on the first morning of the admitted students’ weekend in April 2019, during breakfast. She was deep in conversation with another prospective student, sharing an undoubtedly brilliant analysis of Hegel’s writings about Islam that went right over my head. As another potential colleague and I sat down at the table, she generously drew us into the conversation, seamlessly pivoting the discussion to allow us to join in. She was already 100 per cent certain about Duke, and her excitement was contagious. During our visits to lectures, she confidently chimed in on discussions, challenging current graduate students with an exuberance and astonishing depth of knowledge that we who would later have the privilege of taking classes with her would come to know well. When our final cohort of four arrived in Durham a few months later, adjusting to a challenging new journey as academics, Samar ensured that we came together to sample the North Carolina barbeque that we’d heard so much about since we arrived, inviting our cohort and other members of our community to spend time together outside of the classroom. During our first year in the program – before the COVID-19 pandemic altered the structure of daily life – we often walked together across, talking about astrology and the similarities in our experiences as immigrants and international students. Our time as colleagues was not always smooth. But I respected and admired her fervently as a scholar and a human being – for the stunning duality of her academic rigour and dedication, and the playful joyousness of her spirit over meals shared in Durham or on Zoom calls when we scattered across the globe. I am grateful to have met and known Samar. Without her, our cohort will forever be incomplete.