Taking its inspiration from Great Expectations, Furnace Creek teases us with the question of what Pip might have been like had he grown up in the American South of the 1960s and 1970s and faced the explosive social issues—racial injustice, a war abroad, women’s and gay rights, class struggle—that galvanized the world in those decades. Deftly combining elements of coming-of-age story, novel of erotic discovery, Southern Gothic fiction, and detection-mystery thriller, Furnace Creek offers a contemporary meditation on the perils of desire, ambition, love, loss, and family.
Freedomville is the story of a small group of enslaved villagers in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, who founded their own town of Azad Nagar—Freedomville—after staging a rebellion against their slaveholders. But Laura T. Murphy (NHC Fellow, 2017–18), a leading scholar of contemporary global slavery, who spent years researching and teaching about Freedomville, found that whispers and deflections suggested that there was something troubling about Azad Nagar’s success.
Science under Fire reconstructs a century of battles over the cultural implications of science in the United States, showing how suspicion of scientific methods and motivation has played a major role in American politics and culture since the 1920s with profound repercussions that continue to affect everyday life in the current moment.
From stagecoaches and trains to buses, cars, and planes, Traveling Black explores when, how, and why racial restrictions took shape and brilliantly portrays what it was like to live with them. It also recounts the many forms of resistance deployed in the prolonged fight for freedom of movement across the United States.
Zimbabwean poet and scholar Tsitsi Ella Jaji (NHC Fellow, 2017–18) discusses and reads selections from Mother Tongues: Poems, her award-winning second book of verse, in which she explores our relationships with language, from the first words we learn to the vows we swear, examining how generations of love and loss are inscribed in our every utterance.
Demonstrating the conflicts between international conservation, nature tourism, decolonization, and national sovereignty, Our Gigantic Zoo explores the legacy of Bernhard Grzimek, Europe’s greatest wildlife conservationist, who portrayed himself as a second Noah, called on a sacred mission to protect the last vestiges of paradise for all humankind.
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.