UVA Global Podcast: Interview with Nomi Dave


UVA Global Podcast: Interview with Nomi Dave

Co-founder talks about the Sound Justice Lab project
Nomi Dave headshot
Transcript of Interview with Professor Nomi Dave

Emily Mellen  00:03  

Hello and welcome to a new series of podcasts from UVA Global Affairs. I'm Emily Mellen, a PhD student in music and a PhD+ intern for Global Affairs. Over the next few months, we'll be looking at the research of a variety of CGII grant winners, who will be presenting their research in a series of brown bag lunches. Today's first guest is Nomi Dave, a music professor who researches the music of West Africa.


Emily Mellen  00:30

Hi Nomi, and congratulations again on your award. Could you tell us a little bit about your current project that you're presenting today? 


Nomi Dave  00:37

Yeah, happily. And thank you so much to UVA Global and CGII for their support. So, our project is a collective that we have called the Sound Justice lab. And it's a collective of researchers, scholars at UVA, community partners, in Charlottesville and beyond, who are exploring law’s relationship with films, sound, and other types of expressive media. And essentially, we're interested in understanding what justice means to people in everyday life and the ways in which people make justice claims, not just through legal formal proceedings, but also through informal mechanisms, and the role of the arts and creative practice in making those claims. 


Emily Mellen 01:24

Wow, that's really cool. How did you get interested in those issues? 


Nomi Dave  01:27

I have a background as a lawyer myself and had returned to my legal roots in the past few years doing a collaborative research project in Guinea with a feminist collective and a radio journalist. I was researching feminist responses to sexual violence and my main collaborator, Moussa Yéro Bah, in Guinea, who's both the founder of a local NGO in Guinea and also a radio broadcaster. She was sued for defamation for a broadcast that she did about a sexual violence case. We had already been working on a research collaboration and, of course, I became increasingly wrapped up in her case. And, in the meantime, I had reconnected with Bremen Donovan, who's a PhD student in Anthropology, and Bremen and I have lots of points of connection because she lived in West Africa for a while. She did work in Sierra Leone. So, she has lots of interest in the law and justice. And she's also a filmmaker and photographer. And I was thinking about creative ways in which to explore the story around Yéro, my Guinean friend and collaborator, around her lawsuit. So, Bremen and I started talking about it and we developed a film project that we're currently working on. And so, we were doing this work and then, in the meantime, we were connecting with other colleagues. So, my colleague, Bonnie Gordon, in the Music Department, and another colleague, Anne Coughlin, who’s in the Law School, around questions of voice, narratives, storytelling, creative practice, and gender justice. And so, we decided to experiment with creating a larger kind of method-driven collective around it, which is where the idea of a lab comes in. So, that really appeals to us because it's very practice-oriented and methods-oriented and interdisciplinary and both in and outside of academia. And so, that's how the lab grew. That's how the idea of the lab originated. 


Emily Mellen  03:42

That's fascinating. And can you tell us a little bit about how having the CGII funding is going to help your project? 


Nomi Dave  03:49

It's been transformational, because up until that point… so, we actually had CGII funding for a smaller series of workshops that we did in 2018, which was called the Ethnography Lab series. And at that point, I was thinking about multimodal research, you know, like, many academics are, increasingly nowadays. I was thinking about it in relation to my own research project in Guinea. And I wanted to be in conversation with other people that are experimenting with methods and creative practice and advocacy, etc. And so, I started organizing this series of workshops, under this title, the Ethnography Lab series, which was funded by CGII in 2018. And we just did a couple of those events in 2019. And then, of course, the pandemic hit, and so then Bremen and I started really plowing our directions into the film project. And then, you know, there was so much spillover. There was just such an excess of ideas and collaborations and projects and everything. And so, I applied for the GPOD funding through CGII and that enabled us to really think big for the first time and to be much more ambitious. 


Emily Mellen  05:04

Well, thank you so much for chatting with me, thanks for coming in today. 


Nomi Dave  05:08

Thank you very much.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai