Category Archives: Episodes

Episode 7: The Revolutions We Inherit

In an election season, all of our political speeches and interviews seem to come back to questions of our national relationship to our founding ideals: how far are we fallen from that revolutionary moment, or how far do we have yet to travel in order to realize them at last?

Today’s guests  help us to remember, as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton present absolutely opposing interpretations of that revolutionary period, that the meaning of the American Revolution has always been hotly contested, from the years immediately following military success in the 18th century up to and including the Civil War, and into the present day.

Our guests further remind us that our arguments over these issues have taken the form of international trade relations, third-party politics, and even cultural and aesthetic work.  They help to remind us that, in a manner of speaking, completing that revolution, fully realizing its ideals, remains a distinct national purpose.

Our first guest is Princeton’s Alec Dun (4:29-23:06)

DN book         Alec

His book, Dangerous Neighbors: Making the Haitian Revolution in Early America, has just been released by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Our second guest is Corey Brooks of York College of Pennsylvania (23:44-34:48).

Brooks      LP book

His book, Liberty Power: Third Parties and the Transformation of American Politics is now available from the University of Chicago Press.

Finally, we’re joined by Rutgers’s Michelle Stephens (36:54-50:04)

Skin acts stephens_pic

Her book, Skin Acts: Race, Psychoanalysis, and the Black Male Performer is now available from Duke University Press.

Episode 6: What Are Rights, Really?

Is health care a right, as Bernie Sanders claims?

This episode explores what this kind of assertion of right implies, how “rights talk” has come to dominate this sort of political discourse, the ways in which such rights have historically been won, and why they continue to be contested.

Our guests today are all scholars of legal history, whose writing, taken together, explores the changing ways — that is, the structures and the means by which — Americans have made claims upon one another, asserted their belonging in communities ranging from the local to the national, and argued over the meaning, applicability, and proper enforcement of legal rights.

Felice Batlan teaches at the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law.  Her book, Women and Justice for the Poor: A History of Legal Aid 1863-1945, published by Cambridge University Press, has recently won the prestigious 2016 Willard Hurst Prize.

Batlan_Felice_portrait          womenjustice

Sophia Lee teaches at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  Her book is entitled The Workplace Constitution from the New Deal to the New Right, and is available now from Cambridge University Press.

Sophia      Workplace

Karen Tani teaches at the University of California-Berkeley Law School.  Her book, States of Dependency: Welfare, Rights, and American Governance, has just been released by Cambridge University Press.

ktani      States


Episode 5: Science and Medicine, Pt. 2

Our guiding question in Episode 1 was: How scientific is the practice of medicine?  In this deeper dive of a follow-up effort, we’re pursuing a different and more radical question: Just how scientific is the practice of science?

Natasha Myers, author of Rendering Life Molecular, from Duke University Press, discusses her study of protein crystallographers at work, and particularly the ways in which their bodies and their emotions — not simply their rational minds — are involved in their scientific knowledge of their subject matter.

Natasha           myers_cover_rev_to_nm1

Jessica Riskin, author of The Restless Clock, with the University of Chicago Press, takes us through the history, the theoretical arguments, and the defining problems of modern life science since Descartes, with a particular eye toward the way that the competitions between models of how to understand living things — are they passively mechanical matter? Suffused with an inner force? Fundamentally immaterial in nature? — actually played out.  Spoiler:  Triumphant models weren’t necessarily victorious because of being closer to something like the truth.

RiskininChina      Restlessclock

Episode 4: the Paradox of the Enlightenment Subject

Is corporate personhood really different from regular personhood?  What is the relationship between the body — the corpus — and the self? How were the technological and economic circumstances of the 17th and 18th centuries involved in imagining what it was like to be a subject.  What elements of human life are left out of the standard Enlightenment subject?  How is that related to actual people who are not afforded full subjectivity?

In this episode, we’re talking to three scholars working in the humanities:

Jill Casid, Professor of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, discusses the way in which contemporary projective technology was implicated in imagining both the ideal Enlightenment self and its Other.


Her book, Scenes of Projection: Recasting the Enlightenment Subject, is available from the University of Minnesota Press.

John O’Brien, Professor of English Literature at the University of Virginia, talks about John Locke’s involvement in British economic policy and management of a colonial corporation, and how these are related to his enormously influential philosophies of politics, law, and the mind.


His book, Literature Incorporated: the Cultural Unconscious of the Business Corporation, 1650-1850, is available now from the University of Chicago Press.

Jeannine Murray-Román, Assistant Professor of French and Spanish Literatures at Florida State University, discusses the way colonial and postcolonial subjects find themselves excluded from the allegedly universal categories of Enlightenment personhood, and the way in which subjectivity might be expanded in the direction of real universality, or universal particularity.


Her new book, Performance and Personhood in Caribbean Literature from Alexis to the Digital Age, from the University of Virginia Press, is set to be released at literally any moment.

Episode 3: Neoliberalism at Home and Abroad

This episode features four stellar scholars talking about one of the academy’s most commonly heard, and most often misunderstood, terms: Neoliberalism.  These four authors engage neoliberalism and its discontents in literary manifestations, in domestic American political movements, and in global spaces, particularly Colombia and Nigeria.

Mitchum Huehls, of UCLA’s English Department, addresses the theory underneath neoliberalism, its resistance to critique, and the way in which the figure of the child soldier reveals profound difficulties in neoliberal human rights language.


His new book, hot off the presses, is After Critique: Twenty-First-Century Fiction in a Neoliberal Age, and it’s available from Oxford University Press.

Finis Dunaway, Professor of American History at Trent University, discusses the ways that popular media and media images, in particular, shaped the modern environmental movement from the late 1970s to the present, emphasizing the way the environmental message of personal responsibility — buy a Prius! be a good recycler! — dovetails with the neoliberal shift.


His most recent book on the matter, Seeing Green: The Use and Abuse of Environmental Images, is available now from the University of Chicago Press.

Lesley Gill, head of Vanderbilt University’s Anthropology department, draws attention to neoliberalism’s effects in the Middle Magdalena region of Colombia.  To the previous guests, she adds an emphasis of the role of violence in establishing the kind of free-market reforms that the neoliberal order prizes.


Her recent book focuses on precisely this articulation of neoliberal violence, as its title suggests: A Century of Violence in a Red City: Popular Struggle, Counterinsurgency, and Human Rights in Colombia will be released by Duke University Press at the end of February.

Omolade Adunbi is a political anthropologist in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, and, like Dr. Gill, studies the global impacts of neoliberal reforms.  For Dr. Adunbi, the focus is on the oil enclaves of the Niger delta and the often intertwined roles of multinational corporations, the Nigerian state, local insurgency groups, and transnational NGOs.


His book, Oil Wealth and Insurgency in Nigeria, is available now from Indiana University Press.

Episode 2: African American Political Thought, Part 1

While the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s — Supreme Court victories, sit-ins and marches — provides the enduring images of African American political activism in public memory, the civil rights era both emerged from and gave rise to broader and more eclectic traditions of cultural and intellectual work. Our guests this week explore the ways in which African American politics conceives of the self, the community, and the state in ways that include, but go beyond, the legalistic picture denoted by “rights talk.” This episode discusses the role of performance, music, storytelling and political emotions in doing the imaginative labor of envisioning habitable political futures.

In this episode we’re speaking with:

Dr. Shana Redmond, Associate Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California.  Author of Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora.  New York University Press, 2013.



Dr. Nick Bromell, Professor of English and American Literature, University of Massachusetts.  Author of The Time Is Always Now: Black Thought and the Transformation of US Democracy. Oxford University Press, 2013.


Dr. Angela Ards, Associate Professor of English, Southern Methodist University.  Author of Words of Witness: Black Women’s Autobiography in the Post-Brown Era.  University of Wisconsin Press, 2016.


Episode 1: Science and Medicine

Just how scientific is the practice of medicine?  How do doctors talk about and make use of scientific evidence?  How do scientists see their own work and its applicability in the world at large?

Helping us dissect these issues are Ryerson University’s Colleen Derkatch, Stanford’s Colin Gottlieb, and the University of Michigan’s John Litell.

You can find Dr. Derkatch’s book, Bounding Biomedicine (U of Chicago Press 2016), here.

And here’s the episode itself: