Sound Justice

Bonnie Gordon, 2001–2002 Radcliffe Institute Fellow
Anne Coughlin
, University of Virginia
Nomi Dave
, University of Virginia 

The words "justice," "courts," "crisis," and "reform" sound a 21st century refrain. Across the globe, the Rule of Law index reports a steady decline since 2018 in the efficacy of legal institutions and the fulfillment of national and international legal obligations. The resurgence of populist authoritarian leaders, from the United States to Hungary and the Philippines, has seen courts stacked and the erosion of judicial independence around the world. In the US, a broken criminal justice system and an antidemocratic Supreme Court reveal a system of winners and losers, but little meaningful repair or restoration. At the same time, citizens around the world respond to judicial failures by making their claims publicly, creatively, and noisily. In this seminar, we explore what "justice" means to ordinary people around the world, how they pursue it through and beyond formal legal mechanisms, and what role the arts can and do play in articulating and advancing claims.  

We propose to convene an interdisciplinary group of scholars, artists and practitioners who work in law, the arts, humanities, and social sciences to explore new methods and frameworks for understanding and developing creative collaborations and advocacy. At a moment when public confidence in legal systems has sharply deteriorated, the Sound Justice project will create new frameworks for hearing, seeing, articulating, and promoting justice claims. We resist romanticized ideas of art as utopian, and instead we will experiment with and pioneer new methods for creative collaboration between artists, activists, and scholars.