Bernstein Symposium

The Bernstein Symposium began in 1997 in honor of Robert Bernstein, the founding chair of Human Rights Watch, for his extraordinary contributions to the international human rights movement. The symposium is an integral part of the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights, which was established the same year. Each year, current and past fellows are invited back to Yale Law School to engage in human rights discussions and to connect with each other and with symposium participants.

The 2024 Bernstein Symposium will be held on April 11-12.

Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Symposium

Art and Authority / Art as Advocacy

Politics and art have always had a fraught relationship. Tyrants and demagogues have used art to secure and sustain authority. They have also viewed artists as dissidents and art as a threat to their own power. Some artists and scholars make claims about the ability of art to foster empathy and inspire action. Others disavow art’s political potential. Human rights, as an emancipatory discourse and practice, is entangled in these dichotomies. This year’s Bernstein Symposium seeks to explore fundamental questions about the relationship between art and international human rights. What role can art play in bringing about social change, particularly achieving greater respect for human rights? How can we assess – and on what terms can we even discuss – the “efficacy” of art? What ethical considerations affect the artistic representation of violence, suffering and loss and the publication and distribution of such representations? How do artists themselves understand the relationship between aesthetic goals and social goals?

This year's Bernstein International Human Rights Symposium will be held on April 11-12, 2024.

Please register for the keynote address and/or symposium here.


4:15-6 pm      Welcome and Introductory Remarks

James Silk, Binger Clinical Professor of Human Rights, Yale Law School


Keynote: Transforming Political Rage into Activism 

Nadya Tolokonnikova, Artist and Founder, Pussy Riot

                     Commenter:    Kymberly Pinder, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Dean and Professor of Art and Art 
                     History, Yale School of Art


9:30-10:45      Art as Truth 


11-12:30         Art as Questioning

  • Minerva Cuevas, Conceptual Artist
  • Andrei Kureichik, Filmmaker and Playwright
  • Meleko Mokgosi, Painter and Associate Professor in Painting/Printmaking and Co-Director of Graduate Studies in Painting/Printmaking, Yale School of Art 


12:30-1:30      Lunch, Yale Dining Hall


1:30-3             Art as Activism


3-3:30             Coffee break


3:30-5             Art as Solidarity