NYU’s Radical Listening Project, initiated in 2017 by Carol Gilligan and a team of six researchers and practitioners (working in the fields of education, law, psychology, and sociology), approaches the act of listening as among the deepest manifestations of respect for persons. Starting from a place of curiosity, a genuine desire to learn from the experience of others and to discover what they know, the Project reflects the approach to listening that led to Gilligan’s pathbreaking book In a Different Voice and is now widely used by researchers, journalists, peace activists, human rights advocates, educators and clinicians across a range of cultures and contexts. The word “radical” encompasses both the method of listening and the intention: radical in the sense of going to the root of what is being said (and not said) and radical in the sense of creating a potential for transformation.
Radical Listening takes as its starting point the Listening Guide: a method of psychological and cultural enquiry designed to facilitate the process of discovery. Developed by Gilligan and her students at Harvard and NYU this way of listening is based on a set of epistemological principles, which challenge traditional methodological paradigms of objectivity and neutrality. The Listening Guide begins with four questions that function as a kind of GPS, a way of locating oneself in a conversation; Who is speaking and to whom? In what body or physical space? Telling what stories about which relationships? In what societal and cultural frameworks? The Listening Guide then specifies a way of attending first to the plot or landscape of a given terrain—who is present (or absent) and what is going on; it then tunes the listener’s ear to the first-person voice of the speaker—how someone speaks of themselves acting and being on this particular terrain; and finally, to the interplay of voices that speak to the listener’s question (on the assumption that we all have multiple voices that speak within and around us).
By bringing the listener into relationship with the speaker in this way, Radical Listening holds a potential for discovery and transformation: that is, for being changed in a way one cannot anticipate by taking into oneself the voices and the experiences of others.
The Radical Listening Project is dedicated to the development of Radical Listening as both a path to discovery and as a step toward repairing the fractures that divide communities, societies and the world.