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The American Scholar

Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. A podcast from The American Scholar magazine. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.

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Society & CultureSociety & Culture

Episodes

#291: Dancing the Imperial Twist
Aug 4 2023
#291: Dancing the Imperial Twist
In our Summer 2023 issue, Julian Saporiti writes about the George Igawa Orchestra, which entertained thousands of incarcerated Japanese Americans at a World War II internment camp in Heart Mountain, Wyoming. But Saporiti, who releases music as No-No Boy, has been singing about the “best god damn band in Wyoming” since 2021, when his album 1975 came out. No-No Boy—named for the Japanese Americans who twice answered “no” on a wartime loyalty questionnaire—has been releasing songs about forgotten pockets of Asian-American history for years: Burmese migrants, Cambodian kids whose parents survived the Khmer Rouge, Saigon teens, and his mother’s experience as a Vietnamese refugee of an American war. We caught up with Saporiti at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, where he performed a set in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Smithsonian Folkways, to talk about reciprocity, scholars by waterfalls, and how to smuggle in history with a few strummed chords.Go beyond the episode:Listen to No-No Boy’s previous two albums, 1975 and 1942, and pre-order the next releaseRead “Last Dance,” Saporiti’s story of the George Igawa OrchestraUnfamiliar with the history of the no-no boys? Listen to our interview with Frank Abe about John Okada’s seminal novel No-No Boy about a Nisei draft-resisterTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.Subscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#290: Dying for Fashion
Jul 28 2023
#290: Dying for Fashion
Longtime style reporter Dana Thomas’s book, Fashionopolis, is an indictment of the true costs of fashion—like poisoned water, crushed workers, and overflowing landfills—that never make it onto the price tag of a dress or pair of jeans. Between 2000 and 2014, the annual number of garments produced doubled to 100 billion: 14 new garments per person per year for every person on the planet. The average garment is only worn seven times before being tossed—assuming it’s not one of the 20 billion clothing items that go unsold and unworn. It’s no surprise, then, that the fashion industry accounts for at least 10 percent of global carbon emissions and 20 percent of all industrial water pollution. Though the industry employs one out of every six people globally, fewer than two percent of them earn a living wage—more than 98 percent of workers are not only underpaid, they also toil in unsafe, unsanitary conditions. But change is underfoot: retailers are shifting their supply models, circular and slow fashion are on the rise, and new technology is making the manufacture of new and recycled fabrics cleaner. Dana Thomas joins the podcast to explain what will be required to fix a broken system. This episode originally aired in 2019.Go beyond the episode:Dana Thomas’s Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of ClothesThomas’s tips for weaning yourself off fast fashionWhy donating secondhand clothes to developing countries can actually prevent development—and kill local textile industriesWhat is “slow fashion”? The New York Times explainsMartha Stewart teaches Clothing Repair 101Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho.Subscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#289: On the Line
Jul 21 2023
#289: On the Line
Atlantic bluefin tuna have been swimming in our oceans, and in the human imagination, for millions of years. Topping out at more than 1,500 pounds apiece, these apex predators face their greatest threat not from sharks or a dwindling food supply but from our unwillingness to stop overfishing them (to say nothing of the occasional catastrophic oil spill). But our understanding of how these majestic creatures navigate the ocean, defined by an imaginary line through the middle of the Atlantic, has been challenged by recent discoveries—and the life story of one tuna in particular. Karen Pinchin’s new book, Kings of Their Own Ocean, tells the story of that fish: an Atlantic bluefin named Amelia, tagged in 2004 by the fisherman Al Anderson off the coast of Rhode Island and recaptured twice more before her ultimate death in the Mediterranean. Pinchin joins the podcast to talk about what Amelia’s tale has to tell us about fishing and climate, science and commerce, and the future of the seas.Go beyond the episode:Karen Pinchin’s Kings of Their Own Ocean: Tuna, Obsession, and the Future of Our SeasLet the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch do the work of choosing sustainable seafood for you (you can even download and print little pocket guides for each region—en español tambien!)In our Winter 2023 issue, Juli Berwald considered what coral might teach us about avoiding ecological catastropheJohn Dos Passos loved fishing for tuna just as much as Papa Hemingway didAnna Badhken spoke to us in 2018 about how overfishing and warming waters have devastated a Senegalese fishing communityTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#288: Of Panic and Paranoia
Jul 14 2023
#288: Of Panic and Paranoia
The litany of contemporary conspiracy theories runs long: Pizzagate, QAnon, chemtrails, “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams,” “birds aren’t real.” Some of these are funny—the rumor that Avril Lavigne and/or Paul McCartney have been replaced by doppelgängers—and some have deadly consequences, like the mass murders motivated by replacement theory or the Chronicles of the Elders of Zion. We might like to think this is a recent phenomenon, but the first American president to espouse a conspiracy theory was actually George Washington, a freemason who believed that the Illuminati caused the French Revolution. In his new book, Under the Eye of Power, Colin Dickey asks, “What if paranoia, particularly a paranoia of secret, subversive societies, is not just peripheral to the functioning of democracy, but at its very heart?”Go beyond the episode:Colin Dickey’s Under the Eye of Power: How Fear of Secret Societies Shapes American DemocracyListen to our previous conversation about cryptids, aliens, and other weird encountersJust a hop, skip, and a jump away from conspiracy theories? Belief in quack Covid cures and New Age elixirs, which Dickey wrote about for us last yearThe “groomers” conspiracy draws on a long history of trans- and homophobiaFor more about the Satanic Panic, listen to this episode of the You’re Wrong About podcastTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#287: Man vs. Mosquito
Jul 7 2023
#287: Man vs. Mosquito
Travel to any of the hundred-odd countries where malaria is endemic, and the mosquito is not merely a pest: it is a killer. Factor in the laundry list of other diseases that this insect can transmit—dengue fever, yellow fever, chikungunya, filiaraisis, and a litany of encephalitises—and the mosquito was responsible for some 830,000 human deaths in 2018 alone. This is the lowest figure on record: for context, one estimate puts the mosquito’s death toll for all of human history at 52 billion, which accounts for almost half our human ancestors. How did such a wee little insect manage all that, and escape every attempt to thwart its deadly power? To answer that question, Timothy C. Winegard wrote The Mosquito, a book spanning human history from its origins in Africa through the present and toward the future of gene-editing. In its 496 pages and 1.6 pounds—the equivalent of 291,000 Anopheles mosquitoes—he outlines how the insect contributed to the rise and fall of Rome, the spread of Christianity, and countless wars—not to mention the conquest of South America, in which the mosquito both sparked the West African slave trade and, ironically, led to its end in the United States. This episode originally aired in 2019.Go beyond the episode:Timothy C. Winegard’s The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest PredatorTo help you sleep even less at night, here is the WHO’s list of mosquito-borne diseases and a 2019 report on how climate change puts billions more at riskWe recommend listening to this episode with a citronella candle at hand—and you can consult the CDC’s guidelines for preventing mosquito bites for more tipsVisit our episode page for a gallery of anti-mosquito efforts, courtesy of Dutton Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.Subscribe: iTunes • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#286: The Falcon’s Odd Little Cousin
Jun 30 2023
#286: The Falcon’s Odd Little Cousin
Off the southern tip of South America, the remote and rocky Falkland Islands are home to one of the oddest birds of prey in the world: the striated caracara, which looks like a falcon but acts more like parrot. Charles Darwin had to fend these birds off the hats, compasses, and valuables of the Beagle; the Falkland Islands government had a bounty on their “cheeky” beaks for much of the 20th century; and modern falconers have used their understanding of language to train them to do dog-like tricks. The other nine species of caracara that span the rest of South America are just as odd in their own ways. In his book, A Most Remarkable Creature, Jonathan Meiburg follows their unusual evolutionary path across the continent and describes his encounters with these birds over the past 25 years. He joins us from his home in Texas to introduce us to some new feathered friends. This episode originally aired in 2021.Go beyond the episode:Jonathan Meiburg’s A Most Remarkable CreatureRead an excerpt about Charles Darwin’s encounters with the birdMeet Tina, the striated caracara who can “find Nemo,” and a crested caracara named KevinHere’s some footage of a flock on Saunders Island in the FalklandsTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#285: Imagined Cuisines
Jun 23 2023
#285: Imagined Cuisines
Take any international trip, and the tourist-trap restaurants near the must-see landmarks will all be hawking the “national dish” you simply can’t miss: Greek souvlaki, Japanese ramen, Italian pasta, Mexican mole. Leaving aside the question of whether a restaurant with a laminated English menu could possibly serve good food, we must ask what makes a dish “national”—must it be an old recipe? A common one? Unique to that place? Anya von Bremzen poses these questions and more in her new book, National Dish: Around the World in Search of Food, History, and the Meaning of Home. Beginning in Paris with the 18th-century inauguration of modern French cuisine—and searching for the invention, or perhaps congelation, of pot-au-feu—von Bremzen travels across oceans and continents in search of what defines a country’s cuisine, unraveling notions of identity, nationhood, and politics in the process.Go beyond the episode:Anya von Bremzen’s National Dish: Around the World in Search of Food, History, and the Meaning of HomeIn case you missed it, last week’s episode dealt with what might perhaps be called America’s quixotic national dish: the hot dogDig in to our culinary history, and you’ll find a collection of immigrant women who changed the way American eatsJames Beard did, tooPicture the food of the future—specifically that of the climate crisis—in this immersive dinner party episode  And who could forget the inner organs of beasts and fowls that spill across the pages of Ulysses?Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#284: What Could Be Wurst?
Jun 16 2023
#284: What Could Be Wurst?
Summer cometh: the grills get scraped clean, the buns are split, and hungry Americans get set to boil or broil their wursts, wieners, and sausages. In the summer of 2021, Jamie Loftus drove from coast to coast, tasting the vast array of hot dogs that America has to offer, consuming as many as four a day—and in one notable (or regrettable) instance, five. Chicago-style and the Coney Island special; drive-through and deli; chili and chile: Loftus devoured them all. Her ensuing book, Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs, brings the glory and the gory. It may be the first to detail not only the different genders of pickle jars one can buy at a gas station, but also the horrific treatment of animals and workers at slaughterhouses, conditions that got distinctly worse during the pandemic. Loftus—stand-up comedian, TV writer, and creator of such illustrious one-season podcasts as “My Year in Mensa” and “Ghost Church”—joins us to talk about the wild world of that iconic American food. Go beyond the episode:Jamie Loftus’s Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot DogsProPublica’s exposé of the meatpacking industry during Covid revealed awful conditions, and government collusionDelight your senses with PBS’s classic A Hot Dog ProgramVisit our episode page for a list of the varieties mentioned in this episode Loftus’s top five dogs are:Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, New JerseyHot Dog Ruiz Los Chipilones in Tucson, ArizonaKing Jong Grillin in Portland, OregonThe hot dog carts across the street from the Crypto.com Arena, or near Union Station in Los Angeles, CaliforniaTexas Tavern in Roanoke, VirginiaTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#283: Why the West Won’t Die
Jun 9 2023
#283: Why the West Won’t Die
The idea of “Western civilization” looms large in the popular imagination, but it’s no longer taken seriously in academia. In her new book, The West: A New History in Fourteen Lives, historian Naoíse Mac Sweeney examines why the West won’t die and, in the process, dismantles ahistorical concepts like the “clash of civilizations” and the notion of a linear progression from Greek and Roman ideals to those of our present day—“from Plato to NATO.” Through biographical portraits of figures both well-known and forgotten—Herodotus and Francis Bacon, Livilla and Phyllis Wheatley, Tullia d’Aragona and Abu Yusuf Yaqub ibn Ishaq al-Kindi—Mac Sweeney assembles a history that resembles less of a grand narrative than a spiderweb of influence. Successive empires (whether Ottoman, Holy Roman, British, or American) built up self-mythologies in the service of their expansionist, patriarchal, or, later, racist ideologies. Mac Sweeney joins the podcast to talk about why the West has been such a dominant idea and on what values we might base a new vision of contemporary “western” identity.Go beyond the episode:Naoíse Mac Sweeney’s The West: A New History in Fourteen LivesWe have covered Greece and Rome in previous episodes, as well as Njinga of AngolaIn our Summer 2023 issue, Sarah Ruden considers how modern biographers distort VergilTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#282: No-No Novel
Jun 2 2023
#282: No-No Novel
In 1956, John Okada wrote the first Japanese-American novel, No-No Boy, a story about a Nisei draft-resister who returns home to Seattle after years in prison. It should have been a sensation: American literature had seen nothing like it before. But the book went out of print, Okada never published again, and the writer died in obscurity in 1971. That would have been the end of the story, were it not for a band of Asian-American writers in 1970s California who stumbled upon the landmark novel in a used bookshop. Frank Abe, one of the co-editors of a new book about Okada—and a friend to the “CARP boys” who discovered him—joins us to talk about the era in which No-No Boy was written and what the novel can teach us about our own moment in history. This episode originally aired in 2018.Go beyond the episode:John Okada: The Life and Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No BoyNo-No Boy by John OkadaWatch Frank Abe’s film about the Japanese-American draft resisters, Conscience and the ConstitutionRead Julian Saporiti’s essay in our Summer 2023 issue, “Last Dance”Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#281: Music to Have Revelations To
May 26 2023
#281: Music to Have Revelations To
Siblings Ruthie and Nathan Prillaman are classically trained musicians who have put their knowledge of counterpoint and unusual time signatures to use in their medieval-inspired folk band, Small Fools. Renaissance madrigal meets contemporary queer meme in songs like “Crying in My Subaru” (also the title of their debut EP) and “Horseradish,” inspired by the words on a pickle jar. Such strange musical pairings—the marriage of Gregorian chant with lighthearted lyrics about gnomes, for example—might sound gimmicky, but in the siblings’ hands, they somehow achieve transcendence. The Prillamans join the podcast this week to talk about Small Fools, big ideas, and which 16th-century mystics they find most inspiring.Go beyond the episode:Listen to Small Fools on Spotify or Apple MusicWe dare you not to hum the hook in “Horseradish” Check out the Small Fools TikTokRead more about the lives of anchoresses in this article by Mary Wellesley, cohost of The London Review of Books’s Medieval Beginnings podcast (and a one-time guest on this podcast)Polymath Hildegard of Bingen, one of the first named composers, is still one of the most famous female composersTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#280: Lines from the Front
May 19 2023
#280: Lines from the Front
Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but Vladimir Putin’s forces have been nibbling at the edges of the country since 2014. Or one could say that the war began “long before 2014 by way of colonial imperial politics, suppression of language cultures, mass hunger, and terror,” as the poets Carolyn Forché and Ilya Kaminsky write in the introduction to In the Hour of War, their new anthology of contemporary Ukrainian poetry. “This is a poetry marked by a radical confrontation with the evil of genocide,” they write. “Does poetry have the tensile strength to embody such a confrontation?” The anthology seeks to answer that question with the help of its diverse contributors: “soldier poets, rock-star poets, poets who write in more than one language, poets whose hometowns have been bombed and who have escaped to the West, poets who stayed in their hometowns despite bombardments, poets who have spoken to parliaments and on TV, poets who refused to give interviews, poets who said that metaphors don’t work in wartime and poets whose metaphors startle.” Forché joins us this week on the podcast to talk about the surprising “life-giving force of these poems.”Go beyond the episode:In the Hour of War: Poetry from Ukraine, edited by Carolyn Forché and Ilya KaminskyListen to Serhiy Zhadan’s “Take Only What Is Most Important” on our Read Me a Poem podcastRead Megan Buskey’s essay on the long, unfortunate history of Ukrainian displacementTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.Subscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#279: Losing the Lot
May 12 2023
#279: Losing the Lot
In certain cities, parking may seem like a scarce commodity, especially when you’re circling the block in search of it. But in the United States, there are three to eight spots for every car, depending on whom you ask. Municipal codes that dictate how much parking buildings are required to offer have changed urban density, the cost of housing, and the amount of time drivers spend on the road. In his new book, Paved Paradise, Slate staff writer Henry Grabar makes the compelling case that the simple, rectangular parking spot has shaped the city as we know it. In the past two decades, many people have begun to question the parking paradigm and sought to banish outdated parking minimums, repurpose disused garages, and reimagine the way we use the space we’ve heretofore allotted to cars. Grabar joins the podcast this week to talk about what they’re up against, and what new world potentially awaits us.Go beyond the episode:Henry Grabar’s Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the WorldRead his report on “How Paris Kicked Out the Cars” and explanation of how the concept of the 15-minute city snowballed into a right-wing conspiracyThe Netherlands, now the cycling capital of the world, won traffic reform and bike lanes the old-fashioned way: through the civil disobedience of the Stop de Kindermoord movement in the 1970s and ’80sHot on its heels: Ghent and its ambitious 2017 “mobility plan,” which introduced free “park and ride” buses into town, moved long-term and commuter parking outside of downtown, and thereby increased public transportation use by 12 percentTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @TheAmSchoSubscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#278: The Pacifist and the Battlefield
May 5 2023
#278: The Pacifist and the Battlefield
W. E. B Du Bois is best known for his seminal collection of essays on the African-American experience, The Souls of Black Folk, and his magnum opus, Black Reconstruction in America, which reframed the story of freed slaves in the Civil War and the brief window of political promise that followed. Du Bois is less remembered for his support for America’s entry into the First World War, an endorsement that surprised many of his Black and radical allies. Moreover, he pushed for African Americans to join the ranks, in the hopes of accelerating the fight for freedom at home. He would soon regret his decision, and he spent the next two decades of his life grappling with the complex legacy of the war, and African Americans’ experience of it. As the historian Chad Williams puts it, this manuscript—called The Black Man and the Wounded World—was “Du Bois’s most significant work to never reach the public,” and the struggle to write it would irrevocably shape his politics. Williams, a professor of history and African-American studies at Brandeis University, joins the podcast to talk about his new book, The Wounded World: W. E. B. Du Bois and the First World War.Go beyond the episode:Chad Williams’s The Wounded World: W. E. B. Du Bois and the First World WarRead Williams’s reflection on the centenary of Du Bois’s 1920 book Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil“War is organized murder, and nothing else,” Harry Patch maintained; the last surviving British soldier in World War I died in 2009 at the age of 111. He once told Tony Blair: “Politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organizing nothing better than legalized mass murder.”Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.Subscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#277: A Home in Chinatown
Apr 28 2023
#277: A Home in Chinatown
In the 1860s, Chinese immigrants built vast stretches of railroad in the American West. But two decades later, they found themselves the targets of the first federal law restricting immigration by race and nationality: the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which remained on the books until 1943. One of writer Ava Chin’s forefathers worked on the railroad, and much of her family suffered from the consequences of the Exclusion Act. The violence it enabled pushed both sides of her family east, to New York City. Chin, raised by her mother’s relatives in Queens, had grown up without meeting her father or his family—until years of research led her to a building on Mott Street where, she soon learned, both sides of her family spent decades living, squabbling, and loving. Chin’s new book, Mott Street, is the result of painstaking research across continents and oceans, into oral and written records, to trace five generations of Chinese-American history.Go beyond the episode:Ava Chin’s Mott Street: A Chinese American Family's Story of Exclusion and HomecomingRead her reflections on her railworker great-great-grandfather and contemporary immigration controlHer columns as the Urban Forager for The New York Times grew into Eating Wildly, her 2015 bookVisit our website for a selection of family photographs Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.Subscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#276: Listening to the Dead
Apr 21 2023
#276: Listening to the Dead
There are mass graves all over Latin America, but the concentration of dead and disappeared in Guatemala and Argentina is staggering: more than 200,000 killed by the state in Guatemala’s 36-year conflict, known simply as “La Violencia;” up to 30,000 disappeared by the Argentine military dictatorship over the course of its reign of terror in the 1970s and ’80s. How does a country reckon with crimes against humanity? How do the families of the missing find the truth? “Forensic exhumation is practiced at the crossroads of two ways of thinking about the body,” anthropologist Alexa Hagerty writes, “as a scientific object to be analyzed for evidence of crimes against humanity, and as a subject, an individual, someone loved and mourned.” In her new book, Still Life with Bones, Hagerty documents her training with forensic teams in Guatemala and Argentina, where members have devoted their lives to unearthing the bones of the disappeared, reconstructing not only their skeletons but the stories of their lives.Go beyond the episode:Alexa Hagerty’s Still Life with Bones: Genocide, Forensics, and What RemainsHer latest on human rights and surveillance: “In Ukraine, Identifying the Dead Comes at a Human Rights Cost”If in Buenos Aires, take a day to visit the Museum and Site of Memory ESMAGuatemala’s dictator Efraín Ríos Montt slithered out of an 80-year conviction for genocide; Jayro Bustamante’s incredible film La Llorona imagines a different kind of justice for his fictional analogueIn the experimental film Los Rubios, Albertina Carri investigates what happened to her parents during the Argentine dictatorshipTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.Subscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
#275: That Time of the Month
Apr 14 2023
#275: That Time of the Month
A visit from Aunt Flo, being on the rag, riding the crimson wave, girl flu, even the red wedding … menstruation is something that half of the world’s population experiences for a week at a time, for years on end, and yet we struggle to talk about it directly. But the uterus is capable of incredible things, as anthropologist Kate Clancy explains in her new book, Period: The Real Story of Menstruation: menstrual fluid contains chemicals that repair tissue, the cervix contains crypts for storing sperm for later use, and periods might even be the body’s way of improving its inner architecture. But shockingly, doctors viewed periods as useless—even toxic—well into the 20th century, and some still believe that it’s unsafe to swim with a tampon in (it’s not). Clancy, a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, joins the podcast to challenge uterine myths, expose the eugenic roots of gynecology, and bring a feminist perspective to that special time of the month.Go beyond the episode:Kate Clancy’s Period: The Real Story of MenstruationRead Emily Martin’s paper “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles”Anatomy is amazing: the cervix contains crypts to store sperm for later usageA new generation of artists is making art with menstrual blood, The Guardian reportsTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.Subscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.