Five moments and accomplishments from the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life

Nelson Mandela's grandchildren speaking with actress Eliza Dushku at a Brandeis eventPhoto/Mike Lovett

Nelson Mandela’s grandchildren, Kweku Mandela-Amuah and Ndaba Mandela, speaking with actress Eliza Dushku and her mother, Judith, at 2014's 'DEIS Impact.

The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis celebrated its 20th anniversary March 12 with a symposium, “Democracies in Peril: The Role of the University,” and an evening of music, poetry and dance, “A Powerful Fire: Performances to Energize Our Next 20 Years.”

A gift from the late Abraham Feinberg in 1998 established the center, which seeks to develop effective responses to conflict and injustice by offering innovative approaches to coexistence, strengthening the work of international courts, and encouraging ethical practice in civic and professional life.

Over two decades the Ethics Center has advanced the cause of justice and peace in many ways, including:

The Brandeis Institute for International Judges (BIIJ)

Approximately every 18 months, the Ethics Center brings together judges serving on international courts and tribunals around the world to reflect on the practical challenges as well as philosophical aspects of their work. This spring, BIIJ’s 12th session will take place in Oslo, Norway to discuss the topic, “The Legitimacy of International Courts: Challenges and Responses.”

The Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts

In countries such as the former Yugoslavia, Uganda and Argentina, students and faculty have explored and sought to heal societal conflicts through performance, poetry and other art. “We made Brandeis a global leader in how to use the arts to help build bridges in divided societies,” said director Daniel Terris,P’08, P’11, P’12, P’15. In 2011, Cynthia Cohen, director of Peacebuilding and the Arts, co-edited “Acting Together: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict,” a two-volume work describing some of the arts program’s successes around the world. It was accompanied by the documentary, "Acting Together on the World Stage." The Ethics Center also founded and housed for five years Brandeis University’s master’s program in coexistence and conflict, which is now based at the Heller School. The Center also founded and hosts the undergraduate program in creativity, the arts and social transformation (CAST).

“The International Judge: An Introduction to the Men and Women Who Decide the World’s Cases”

Based on interviews with more than 30 judges, this 2007 book published by Brandeis University Press and Oxford University Press depicts the struggles and tough decisions of members of a wide array of international benches. It was written by Terris, staff member Leigh Swigart and Loyola Law School professor Cesare Romano.

ENACT: The Educational Network for Active Civic Transformation

ENACT gets undergraduates involved in the legislative process at the state level. Students learn to work with legislators, staffers and community organizations to advance policy. Started at the Ethics Center in 2009, ENACT became a national program in 2015, and this summer will operate in 29 colleges and universities across the country. ENACT has engaged hundreds of students with the legislative process on dozens of bills — many of which have been signed into law — and links them via a nationwide virtual network. 

’DEIS Impact

Founded in 2011, ’DEIS Impact quickly became a new Brandeis University tradition: an annual festival of social justice that is a cooperative effort between the Ethics Center and the Student Union. The festival features dozens of events over a 10-day span, which always includes a major keynote address by an outside activist, as well as ’DEIS Impact College, a showcase of Brandeis University faculty integrating social justice into their teaching.    

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences

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