Democracy Labs and Working Groups form the academic foundation of the Karsh Institute and create a venue for faculty from across the University of Virginia to team up with posdoctoral scholars, practitioners, and graduate and undergraduate students to delve into specific and timely democracy-related topics.
The Lab and Working Group models allow the Karsh Institute to adapt its areas of focus and support research, teaching, and public outreach to address contemporary (and ever-evolving) challenges to democracy.
The John L. Nau III History & Principles of Democracy Lab
As the core lab within UVA’s Karsh Institute of Democracy, the John L. Nau III History & Principles of Democracy Lab focuses on conceptual and historical questions of democracy. It offers a yearly transdisciplinary graduate course on democracy that is open to students from all fields. The Nau Lab is the hub of the Karsh Institute’s docket of rotating labs, projects, and programming focused on the history and principles of democracy. READ MORE
Racial injustice and climate change are two of the most urgent challenges facing democracies today. The Repair Lab at the Karsh Institute explores the relationship between those issues and deepens understanding of the causes, consequences, and countermeasures of environmental and climate injustice locally and around the world. READ MORE
Sound Justice Lab
The Sound Justice Lab at the Karsh Institute focuses on the law and its limits, telling the stories that are often left out of legal or institutional proceedings. The scholars within the lab draw attention to justice that is thorough—working in film, sound, visual art, and other expressive media to amplify the voices that are often muted by formal legal processes. READ MORE
Corruption Lab on Ethics, Accountability, and the Rule of Law (CLEAR)
Corruption erodes society’s well-being by stifling growth, weakening property rights, and diminishing public health and education. The Corruption Lab on Ethics, Accountability, and the Rule of Law (CLEAR Lab) at UVA’s Karsh Institute of Democracy is made up of a diverse group of scholars who aim to shine a light on the causes and consequences of corruption. READ MORE
Religion, Race, and Democracy Lab
The Karsh Institute's Religion, Race, and Democracy Lab supported teaching, facilitated research, and produced stories to explore the interrelationship of religion and race in democracies around the world. The lab brought together researchers, students, journalists, and public leaders to study how these complex forces shape lives. READ MORE
Aesthetics of Democracy in the Afterlives of War
UVA Karsh Institute of Democracy’s Aesthetics of Democracy in the Afterlives of War Working Group brings visiting artists, curators, and scholars to the University of Virginia to discuss artistic and curatorial practices that reimagine democracy in the wake of war. Other deliverables will include a volume featuring interviews with artists and curators—not as a representation of the parallel paths of the members, but to demonstrate how democratic aesthetics are practiced through new juxtapositions and collaboration.
Black Indigenous Feminist Futures Institute (BIFFI)
Promoting interdisciplinary research, scholarship, and cultural production, the Karsh Institute's Black Indigenous Feminist Futures Institute (BIFFI) elevates feminist Black and Indigenous studies through a “fellows-in-residence” program. The intensive instruction focuses theories, methods, curricular design, pedagogies, and community-building work through summer institutes—establishing the first “Black and Indigenous Studies Certificate Program” in the U.S. South.
Home Places: Mapping Black Virginia
It is critical to put the tools of reparative history in the hands of students in K–12 and at the university level. Scholars from across UVA are working with the Karsh Institute of Democracy’s Home Places: Mapping Black Virginia Working Group to create a digital storytelling project that identifies the untold narratives of Black communities throughout Virginia, from Reconstruction to the present day. The working group also will offer resources for public school students to produce family and community histories and for documenting Black place-making on Grounds at UVA.
Indigenous Studies (IS)
The Indigenous Studies (IS) Working Group at the Karsh Institute is focused on best practices for research, teaching, and university administration (including admissions) in Native American and Indigenous studies. By conducting listening sessions with leaders and citizens from tribal nations in Virginia, IS implements reforms and hosts public events to promote mutual exchanges of knowledge about Indigenous history, political philosophy, and governance.
Local Equity and Democracy (LEAD)
Democracy is experienced in the places we live, work, and cast our ballots. But local communities are rife with inequities—divided by class and race, by neighborhoods, by patterns of surveillance and violence, by vulnerabilities to climate change, by access to essential public services. The Local Equity and Democracy (LEAD) Working Group at the Karsh Institute explores potential remedies at the local level.
The Karsh Institute's Local Knowledge Working Group focuses on how to expand the collection and sharing of historical and contemporary information about Charlottesville, Virginia. The group’s goal is to inform discourse and policy through three areas: the promotion of Cvillepedia.org as a free tool for sharing local research; an environmental scan of the local “information ecosystem”; and the production of a half-day symposium exploring how to democratize local information.
Paradoxes of Ancient Citizenship
In the United States, who is allowed to be a citizen? Who deserves to be a citizen? What are the rights and responsibilities of resident non-citizens? Many of these questions were asked in antiquity as well. The Paradoxes of Ancient Citizenship Working Group at the Karsh Institute examines different aspects of Greek and Roman citizenship: the value of legal and political definitions; how citizenship is displayed through art and the spaces of the city; how citizenship might have been taught; and why ancients valued citizenship.
Race, Slavery, and Democracy in Islamic Asia and Africa
How has slavery shaped societies that did not embrace democracy over the centuries? UVA Karsh Institute of Democracy’s Race, Slavery, and Democracy in Islamic Asia and Africa Working Group explores this concept with interested faculty, staff, and students. The group investigates topics including the trans-Atlantic and Indian Ocean slave trades as linked phenomena.