Audio Recording Graphic with black background and red soundwave"Leonard: Political Prisoner" by ManBites Dog films wins the 2021 Human Rights Audio Documentary Award.  Read more...

What is audio documentary? How do recording technologies, sonic vernaculars, activism, and dissent come together in a documentary art form that engages with our ears?

This new award, sponsored by the Human Rights Archive and the Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, seeks to support outstanding documentary artists exploring human rights and social justice and expand the audio holdings in the Archive for long-term preservation and access. Through the use of aural practices, we are seeking submissions that delve into the sensory world of human rights via the act of listening. We highly encourage works that pull from the strengths of the medium and go beyond the core mission of transmitting information but can create sonic worlds and immersive experience. Both narrative and experimental documentary works are accepted.

In our inaugural year we will focus on works that explore language and the role of language in human rights. Books are burned, buildings are bull-dozed, bodies are buried…and people escape with only their language and the memory work it will enable. How can spoken language serve as a form of sonic resistance to colonialism and cultural genocide? How does language persevere even when individuals and entire communities are disappeared? How do the language practices of the indigenous, the displaced, the incarcerated, and the oppressed buttress memory, build community and identity, and demand social justice and human rights?

The awardee will receive an honorarium of $2,500 USD, plus be expected to give a talk at Duke (virtual talk or in-person will be decided at a later date).

Why should I apply?

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Library has a strong commitment to human rights and the documentary arts through collecting and making available works by creators from around the world. Our collections document the impact that organizations and individuals have, and the role documentary plays, to motivate the thinking of others, and the influence that has on private and government policies.

We encourage submissions from individuals or groups from across the globe, whose work is not already in the collections of the Rubenstein Library. Documentarians working in their own communities are encouraged to apply, and we are particularly interested in submissions from communities underrepresented in the archives.

Please limit to one entry per person or group. We are not accepting submissions from employees of Duke University, or those currently enrolled in a degree-granting program.

What do I need to apply?

This form does not save your work in progress. We suggest you compose your responses in another program and copy and paste your answers in the fields below.

Your complete contact information
Name, Email, Phone
Statement of interest in the archive
Consider addressing the importance of long-term preservation and access to your work.
We accept non-English works but ask that you include a brief synopsis in English.
Brief bio
This is a short narrative that tells us a little bit about you, your experience, and your work.
Link to your audio file.
PLEASE NOTE: We will not be able to accept files via email or download. We suggest you use a hosting platform such as a personal website, or free options such as Soundcloud. If you need assistance in finding a free platform, please reach out to the, curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts.

Apply Here

Copyright and Access

The awardee is not required to transfer copyright. However, it is our goal to make our collections available to a diverse group of people and expand our avenues of access that are equitable and open, including online access and educational use. We balance this with the appropriate privacy and other restrictions determined important by creators. You can see a sample of our purchase agreement here, and check out our statement on How We Work.


  • June 1-August 30, 2021: Submissions open
  • September: Evaluation of submissions
  • Mid-October: Awardee announced
  • Mid-November: Delivery by awardee of final files to the archive

This award is an initiative of the Human Rights Archive and the Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Learn more about Special Collections at Duke...