Call for Papers: “Listening to Justice”
Jean-Sébastien Noël (Associate Professor in Contemporary History, La Rochelle University, France)
Sylvie Thénault (Research Director at CNRS, Centre d’histoire sociale des mondes contemporains Contemporary Social History)
The question of images in court and the video recording of trials has been addressed extensively. Christian Delage, who has precisely worked on the validity of images as evidence at the Nuremberg trials, put forward the notion of “hermeneutic prerogative of the image”. However, the history of the sound of justice has yet to be explored, even though recent works in the historiography of the judiciary as well as research in sound and listening studies do suggest the field might prove a fruitful one. Covering all historical periods in a diachronic perspective, this dossier aims to “listen to justice” throughout its entire process, from the early stages of investigations to court hearings, through periods of custody. Therefore, contributions may focus not only on the courtroom, but also on acoustic phenomena occurring in prisoner transport vehicles (“paddy wagon”), at the police station, when remanded in custody, during police interrogation sessions or even in prison. All sound environments, including auditory memories of acts of torture (as analyzed in particular by Juliette Volcler) and executions of condemned persons may be considered. The long-term approach is an invitation to investigating a variety of judiciary contexts.
The research dynamic initiated for the last two decades in the field of sound studies makes it possible to apprehend sound phenomena under each of their many facets – social, cultural, as well as technical and legal. Therefore, a list of potential themes may include:
- The use of voice, and public speaking
- The evolution of institutional frameworks and procedural regulations on these topics
- The various sound systems and ad hoc devices used in tribunals (for translation or making the voice of the actors heard, etc.)
- Building the listening (architecture and the acoustics of tribunals and courtrooms)
- The legal and judicial implications of recording the soundtrack of trial proceedings
- The archival, filing, preservation and/or digitization processes of famous trials
- Coercive uses of sound (acts of torture)
While the coordinators of the dossier intend to prioritize empirically grounded research works, contributions may take the form of interviews with actors of the judiciary or other professionals concerned by these questions (such as architects).
How to apply
1500-character proposals supplemented by a short bio/list of publications of the author should be sent by 16 July 2022 at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
A reply will be given in July 2022 and the contributions should then be submitted by March 2023, to be published in the second semester 2023 issue of the journal.
 Christian Delage, “L’image comme preuve. L’expérience du procès de Nuremberg”, Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire, 2001/4 (no 72), p. 74.
 Frédéric Chauvaud and Pierre Prétou (dir.), Clameur publique et émotions judiciaires, Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2014.
 Trevor Pinch and Karin Bijsterveld (ed.), The Oxford handbook of sound studies, New York, Oxford University Press, 2012. Jonathan Sterne (ed.), The sound studies reader, New York, Routledge, 2012.
 Michael Bull and Les Back (eds.), The Auditory Culture Reader. Oxford, Berg Publishers, 2003.
 Juliette Volcler, Le son comme arme. Les usages policiers et militaires du son, Paris, La Découverte, 2011.