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From the 1940s to 1960s, Iran developed into the world's first “petro-state,” where oil represented the bulk of state revenue and supported an industrializing economy, expanding middle class, and powerful administrative and military apparatus. In Petroleum and Progress in Iran: Oil, Development, and the Cold War (Cambridge UP, 2022), Gregory Brew o…
 
Chris Webb's The Belzec Death Camp: History, Biographies, Remembrance (Ibidem, 2016) is a comprehensive account of the Belzec death camp in Poland, which was the first death camp to use static gas chambers as part of the Aktion Reinhardt mass murder program. It covers the construction and the development of the mechanisms of mass murder. The story …
 
Nicole Archambeau, associate professor of history at Colorado State University, talks about her book, Souls under Siege: Stories of War, Plague, and Confession in Fourteenth-Century Provence (Cornell University Press), with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. The book explores how the inhabitants of southern France made sense of the ravages of succe…
 
Today I talked to C. P. Lesley about Song of the Storyteller (Five Directions Press, 2023). It’s 1546, and Ivan the Terrible is about to be coronated and married off. Government nobles are given 6 weeks to choose the most beautiful, highborn, fertile, and politically expedient brides from around the country. Before Tsar Ivan makes his choice, 16-ye…
 
The Varieties of Atheism: Connecting Religion and Its Critics (University of Chicago Press, 2022), edited by Professor David Newheiser reveals the diverse nonreligious experiences obscured by the combative intellectualism of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens. In fact, contributors contend that narrowly defining atheism as the be…
 
Archaeologist Ilka Knüppel discusses her master's thesis—The Search for Jesus's Final Steps: How Archaeological and Literary Evidence Reroutes the Via Dolorosa—and how she came to write it. To use both ‘archaeological and literary evidence’ requires digging in both the earth and in books, and to ‘reroute’ the Via Dolorosa reveals that many of the t…
 
When late eighteenth-century New Spanish viceregal administrators installed public lamps in the streets of central Mexico City, they illuminated the bodies of Indigenous, Afro-descended, and plebeian Spanish urbanites. The urban patrolmen, known as guarda faroleros, or “lantern guards,” maintained the streetlamps and attempted to clear the streets …
 
Over six million prime-age men are neither working nor looking for work; America's low unemployment rate hides the fact that many men have dropped out of the workforce altogether. Our workforce participation rate is on par with that seen during the Great Depression. Why does this problem affect men so acutely? Why is it so specific to America? What…
 
Change is not about grand statements and sweeping gestures. It is about chipping away, a bit at a time, at the habits that hold us back. Dr Rebecca Ray knows about the power of small habits to make big changes. By introducing small changes into her own life, she transformed her career as a clinical psychologist to become one of Australia's most eff…
 
This week, RBI director John Torpey interviews Prof. Enrique Desmond Arias, a professor of political science at Baruch College and the Graduate Center, about recent developments in Latin American politics. Arias delves into Peru's recent political unrest and how it resembles the times of Fujimori's authoritarianism and discusses the origins of pola…
 
Adorno and the Ban on Images (Bloomsbury, 2022) upends some of the myths that have come to surround the work of the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno – not least amongst them, his supposed fatalism. Sebastian Truskolaski argues that Adorno's writings allow us to address what is arguably the central challenge of modern philosophy: how to picture a world…
 
We have usually relied on public intellectuals to provide facts, ideas, and cultural leadership--though not all have lived up to the ideal of “speaking truth to power.” Today, however, online networks and social media mean we are all public intellectuals, and we have new responsibilities that come with this role. Guests: Cornel West, professor at U…
 
What kinds of tools do we need to make big decisions, and why aren't our universities training us to make them? Are universities doing students a disservice by occupying them with myriads of boxes to tick? Are students right to prefer money to meaning? Madison Program alumni Ben and Jenna Storey discuss the philosophy of making choices and of restl…
 
Kimon and Richard speak with Cormac Russell, Managing Director at Nurture Development. Cormac focuses on helping institutions, NGOs, governmental organizations, and companies interested in improving their communities. The biggest issue that Cormac encounters in these organizations is a problem with disconnection. In this interview, Cormac discusses…
 
In this episode of High Theory, Jack Jen Gieseking tells us about queer space. Queer geographies matter alongside queer temporalities. And it turns out that lesbian life in the 1950s cannot be generalized from the specific history of Buffalo, New York. In the episode they reference a number of scholarly books including J. Jack Halberstam, In a Quee…
 
How do ideas manifest outside of their place of origin, and how do they change once they do? The Emergence of Global Maoism: China’s Red Evangelism and the Cambodian Communist Movement, 1949–1979 (Cornell University Press, 2022) by Matthew Galway examines how ideological systems become localized, both in the indigenization of Marxism-Leninism by Ma…
 
Historian John Jeffries Martin traces narratives of the Apocalypse over the last 500 years in the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions in his new book, A Beautiful Ending. This discussion about the culture of Apocalypse follows (and is the second part of) an interview we began on the New Books in History Podcast which was a historical discussio…
 
In Water the Willow Tree: Memoirs of a Bethlehem Boyhood (Gorgias Press, 2022), George A. Kiraz tells the story of a young Palestinian boy growing up in Bethlehem, fascinated with understanding his Syriac roots even as he drew steadily nearer to the day when he would inevitably be transplanted to the United States. George first traces his ancestors…
 
Though we rarely see them at work, building inspectors have the power to significantly shape our lives through their discretionary decisions. The building inspectors of Chicago are at the heart of sociologist Robin Bartram’s analysis of how individuals impact—or attempt to impact—housing inequality. In Stacked Decks: Building Inspectors and the Rep…
 
In Wild Music: Sound and Sovereignty in Ukraine (Wesleyan UP, 2019), Maria Sonevytsky tracks vernacular Ukrainian discourses of “wildness” as they manifested in popular music during a volatile decade of Ukrainian political history bracketed by two revolutions. From the Eurovision Song Contest to reality TV, from Indigenous radio to the revolution s…
 
Linking morality and science can conjure up disturbing histories around social Darwinism, eugenics, and genetically engineered humans. But scientists today are making discoveries that moral agents shouldn’t ignore: how to overcome aggression and tribalism, and how to sustain cooperation in a modern pluralist world. Guests: Diane Paul, professor eme…
 
Microchips are both important and in short supply. So how important? And what can be done to make them more plentiful? Also, what are the geopolitical implications of having the production of microchips concentrated in relatively few hands. Owen Bennett Jones talks microchips with Julian Kamasa of the Centre for Security Studies in Zurich. Owen Ben…
 
In Soundworks: Race, Sound, and Poetry in Production (Duke UP, 2020), Anthony Reed argues that studying sound requires conceiving it as process and as work. Since the long Black Arts era (ca. 1958–1974), intellectuals, poets, and musicians have defined black sound as radical aesthetic practice. Through their recorded collaborations as well as the a…
 
Irish vegan studies are poised for increasing relevance as climate change threatens the legitimacy and longevity of animal agriculture and widespread health problems related to animal product consumption disrupt long held nutritional ideologies. Already a top producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union, Ireland has committed to expan…
 
For almost a year now, we have been absorbing news and information about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There are a variety of different, or competing, narratives to explain and define what we understand about the origins of this conflict and the ongoing military successes and failures on the ground in Ukraine and in Russia. I had the chance to inte…
 
Feeling down about museums? We have so many reasons to, but Chris Newell, Tribal Community Member-in-Residence at UConn and Director of Education at the Akomawt Educational Initiative, gives a dose of optimism about the future of museums. Learn more about the Seeing Truth exhibition at our website. Follow us on Twitter @WhyArguePod and on Instagram…
 
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