For the past several decades, authorities have become increasingly concerned about the threat posed by emerging diseases—not only to public health, but also to political and economic stability at a global scale. Attention has been particularly focused on tropical hotspots such as west and central Africa, where human encroachment has increased the likelihood of encountering novel pathogens. In this podcast, Gregg Mitman, professor of history, medical history, and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, explores the ecological, economic, political, and social forces that have simultaneously turned regions of west Africa into profitable sites of natural resource extraction, productive enclaves of biomedical research, and hot zones for pandemic threats.
Over the past several decades, lawmakers have used scientific studies of brain development and function to justify education policy choices. Although such findings are always subject to change, the logic of “brain science” is increasingly being equated with a kind of fundamental truth. In this podcast episode, Jordynn Jack, Chi Omega Term Distinguished Professor of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explores how contemporary public rhetorical strategies have advanced the idea that we are “neurological subjects,” with identities located in and constructed through our cognitive abilities.
Though modernist ballet is often associated with European companies, the ideas and concepts that emerged from this movement soon found their way around the globe. In Latin countries such as Cuba, this foreign cultural form was adapted to meet local needs and provided an important way to articulate national identity. In this podcast, Lester Tomé, associate professor of dance at Smith College, discusses how artists such as Alejo Carpentier adopted and reimagined the formal methods of modernist ballet in order to promote an indigenous form of Afro-Cuban culture.
As more of our lives shift online, the question of how speech should be regulated in this digital space becomes increasingly relevant. However, mechanisms for regulating language on social media are often designed to work with artificial intelligence-based algorithms that have not yet been fully developed, leaving them instead to be administered inconsistently by human moderators. In this podcast, Janny Leung, professor of linguistics in the School of English at The University of Hong Kong, addresses the ethical and legal questions that arise from these attempts to monitor and evaluate—and sometimes even block—individuals’ language on social media.
Christopher Moore, “Sôphrosunê and Self-Knowledge: An Ancient Greek Virtue and the Modern Condition”
Scholars have traditionally translated the ancient Greek virtue of Sôphrosunê as “temperance” or “chastity,” implicitly suggesting that it is concerned with forms of self-control in the face of desire or dramatic bodily sensations. As a result, this concept has often been downplayed and relegated to the forgotten corners of philosophical inquiry. In this podcast, Christopher Moore, associate professor of philosophy and classics at The Pennsylvania State University, restores and explains the complexities of Sôphrosunê for a contemporary audience.
When we read most novels, we assume that characters are the most important components of a story. However, in noteworthy American literature of the segregation era, it is often forms of evidence that structure novelistic worlds, making us recognize and question the ways that details of ordinary life can take on particular significance. In this podcast episode, Rachel Watson, assistant professor of American literature at Howard University, considers how the treatment of evidence in literature can help us to illuminate the simultaneous development of discourses around race, criminology, and crime science.
Though debates about water usage and environmental justice are often conducted in the future tense—with one eye trained on impending catastrophes—the causes are usually rooted in past injustices. For this reason, attempts to understand and avert these crises necessarily involve attending to the voices of those who have suffered them in the past—including the indigenous people of North Carolina. In this podcast, Ryan E. Emanuel, professor of forestry and environmental resources at North Carolina State University, discusses how members of the Lumbee tribe can provide important insights into both the conservation and protection of the river that bears their name.
Charisma is a concept we typically use to refer to individuals who fascinate, attract, and captivate us in some way. The word’s modern usage, however, obscures its origins in Christian doctrine. In such contexts, charismatic figures were understood to have a kind of divinely ordained authority and spiritual influence. In this podcast episode, Molly Worthen, associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explores the evolution of charisma in the popular consciousness and its role in various historical epochs and movements.
Katherine Mellen Charron, “Activism Beyond the City: Women, Rural Communities, and the Struggle for Black Freedom”
When mapping the struggle for Black freedom and racial justice, historians have often emphasized the events and organizational efforts that occurred in urban areas, largely led by men. However, in rural American communities, the voices and leadership of women were extremely influential. In this podcast, Katherine Mellen Charron, associate professor of history at North Carolina State University, discusses her research into the legacies of local, community-based, rural Black women’s activism in North Carolina.
Jennifer D. Williams, “The Poetry and Prose of Precarious Living: Black Women Writers and the Legacy of Segregated Urban Spaces”
Between the 1930s and the 1970s, racialized legislation and subsequent migrations of Black Americans combined to drive explosive population growth in urban centers, which in turn gave rise to the creation of segregated districts and public housing projects. The experience of life in these spaces, which required residents to navigate precarious conditions where distinctions between public and private collapsed, was chronicled by Black women writers of the era. In this podcast, Jennifer D. Williams, assistant professor of English at Howard University, discusses her research into urban spaces, racial politics, and Black womanhood in the twentieth century.