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Vox Conversations

Vox Media

Vox Conversations brings you discussions between the brightest minds and the deepest thinkers; conversations that will cause you to question old assumptions and think about the world and our role in it in a new light. Join Sean Illing and his colleagues across the Vox newsroom for new episodes every Monday and Thursday.

Vox Conversations brings you discussions between the brightest minds and the deepest thinkers; conversations that will cause you to question old assumptions and think about the world and our role in it in a new light. Join Sean Illing and his colleagues across the Vox newsroom for new episodes every Monday and Thursday.


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Vox Media


Vox Conversations brings you discussions between the brightest minds and the deepest thinkers; conversations that will cause you to question old assumptions and think about the world and our role in it in a new light. Join Sean Illing and his colleagues across the Vox newsroom for new episodes every Monday and Thursday.




The Fortress of Solitude saw it all coming

Vox's Constance Grady talks with writer Jonathan Lethem about his 2003 work The Fortress of Solitude in this recording from a live Vox Book Club event. They discuss the prescient and still-relevant themes of the novel — like the issues of appropriation in art, gentrification, and superheroes, how Lethem approaches "realism" in his writing, and the role of music and comics in both his own life and the lives of his characters. Vox Conversations will be on summer break the week of July 4th, and...


The Philosophers: Stoic revival

Sean Illing talks with author Ryan Holiday about Stoicism — a philosophy with roots in ancient Greece and which flourished in early imperial Rome — and how it can help us live fulfilling lives today. In addition to explaining what Stoicism is and how we can practice it, Holiday addresses the critical idea that Stoicism is a philosophy for elites, unpacks some of the parallels between Stoicism and Buddhism, and explains how being in touch with our mortality can relieve some of our modern...


Station Eleven's creator on the end of the world

Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos sits down with Patrick Somerville, the creator and showrunner of HBO's critically-acclaimed series Station Eleven, adapted from the novel by Emily St. John Mandel. They talk about the weirdness of making a show about a pandemic during a pandemic, what it was like to craft the show's intricate web of storylines, and why Patrick's body of work — which also includes Maniac, Made for Love, and co-writing The Leftovers — tends toward the dystopian. There's also a reflective...


The racist origins of fat phobia

Vox’s Anna North talks with Da'Shaun Harrison, the activist, author, and 2022 Lambda Literary Award recipient for their book Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness. Da'Shaun explains the ways in which society's anti-fatness is structural, and connected —historically and politically — to the structures of anti-Blackness that took root alongside slavery in America. Anna and Da'Shaun discuss common misunderstandings and myths about fatness, how these pathologies...


The fight for Ukraine — and democracy

Sean Illing talks with historian and author Timothy Snyder about the war in Ukraine, the stakes for Europe and the rest of the world, and the battle between Putin's autocracy and democracy being waged. They also discuss the enduring importance of history — and of ideas — in shaping events in our world. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), Interviews Writer, Vox Guest: Timothy Snyder (@TimothyDSnyder), author; Levin professor of history, Yale University References: "The War in Ukraine Has...


The war on trans people

Vox’s Emily St. James talks with Chase Strangio of the ACLU about the assault on the rights of trans Americans taking place in many states across the country. They explain why laws that recently passed through state houses in Florida, Texas, and Alabama imperil trans people — or, in some cases, even criminalize their very existence. Chase and Emily discuss the ongoing legal battles to challenge these laws, the political and social obstacles facing the trans community, and how all Americans...


Michael Ian Black on being a better man

Sean Illing talks with comedian and author Michael Ian Black about his book A Better Man, in which Black writes a letter to his son about masculinity, vulnerability, and the importance of empathy, among other things. They open the conversation discussing the tragic mass murder that took place at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Black was inspired to write this book in the wake of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and America's mass shootings are a subject throughout his...


Carmen Maria Machado's haunted feminine

Vox's Constance Grady talks with writer Carmen Maria Machado, whose 2017 short story collection Her Body and Other Parties was a National Book Award finalist. In this episode, which is a recording of a live Vox Book Club event, they discuss how this haunting genre-straddling collection conveys the underlying horrors of being an embodied woman, how the nation's shifting cultural mores around sexual violence are reflected in Law & Order: SVU, and how Machado's writing expresses what she just...


The rise and fall of America's monuments

Jamil Smith talks with Erin Thompson, professor of art crime and author of Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of America's Public Monuments. They discuss why we honor horrible people from the past in metal and stone, what effects these objects have on our present, and what's keeping so many of these monuments in place throughout America. Host: Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith), Senior Correspondent, Vox Guest: Erin Thompson (@artcrimeprof), author; associate professor of art crime, John Jay College...


The Philosophers: America's philosophy, with Cornel West

Sean Illing talks with Cornel West about the American philosophical tradition known as pragmatism. They talk about what makes pragmatism so distinctly American, how pragmatists understand the connection between knowledge and action, and how the pragmatist mindset can invigorate our understanding of democratic life and communal action today. Cornel West also talks about the ways in which pragmatism has influenced his work and life, alongside the blues, Chekhov, and his Christian faith. This...


Why accidents aren't accidental

Vox’s Marin Cogan talks with author and journalist Jessie Singer, whose book There Are No Accidents asks us to completely rethink our understanding of accidents as seemingly random, blameless, harm-inducing events. Marin and Jessie discuss what drug overdoses, car crashes, and apartment building fires have in common, the systemic structural vulnerabilities that lead to accidents, and how we can press for greater accountability. Host: Marin Cogan (@marincogan), Senior Features Correspondent,...


Rethinking the "end of history"

Sean Illing talks with political scientist and author Francis Fukuyama, whose ideas about the "end of history" and the ideological supremacy of liberal democracy became well-known through his 1989 essay "The End of History?". They discuss Fukuyama's new book, Liberalism and Its Discontents, as well as some of the modern challenges facing liberalism today, what Fukuyama thinks of the radically redistributive politics of the Bernie Sanders campaign, and whether he thinks it's still the case...


Anita Hill finally gets even

Vox's Fabiola Cineas talks with Anita Hill, whose testimony during the 1991 confirmation hearings for now-Justice Clarence Thomas highlighted the prominence of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances in the workplace. Hill discusses how those hearings changed her, whether or not she has respect for the Supreme Court as an institution, and how her fight to stop gender violence continues today. Host: Fabiola Cineas (@FabiolaCineas), Reporter, Vox Guest: Anita Hill (@AnitaHill),...


Elites have captured identity politics

Sean Illing talks with Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, whose new book Elite Capture is about how the wealthy and powerful co-opt political movements, and use the language of progressive activism to further their ends. They discuss the history and meaning of "identity politics," the notion of "woke capitalism," and how to arrive at a more constructive politics — one that actually engages directly in redistributing social resources and power, rather than achieving merely symbolic gains. Host: Sean Illing...


The moral dangers of dirty work

Vox’s Jamil Smith talks with journalist and author Eyal Press about "dirty work" — the jobs Americans do that, as Press explains, can lead workers to perform morally compromising activities unwittingly. They discuss examples of this kind of work (drone pilots, meat packers, prison aides), talk about its relation to the term "essential workers" that gained prominence during the pandemic, and explain how certain jobs highlight the disparities of class, race, and gender in American society....


Did the sexual revolution go wrong?

Sean Illing talks with author and Washington Post columnist Christine Emba about whether or not we need to rethink sex. They discuss why, according to the research and reporting in Emba's new book Rethinking Sex, many Americans are unhappy with the sex they're having, and don't fully understand what they want. They also talk about how her Catholic faith informs her views on sex, why it's necessary to expand on the framework of "consent," and what kind of sexual culture Emba hopes to see in...


Who decides how to conserve nature?

Vox's Benji Jones talks with Indigenous leader Kimaren ole Riamit about the role of Indigenous peoples in the conservation movement. Bringing the perspective of his upbringing in the Kenyan Maasai pastoral community as well as advanced degrees earned at Western institutions, Kimaren discusses with Benji the power and potential of Indigenous knowledge in combating the climate crisis, and the challenges in bridging that knowledge with the global conservation effort. Host: Benji Jones...


The Philosophers: Loneliness and totalitarianism

Sean Illing talks with professor Lyndsey Stonebridge about the philosopher Hannah Arendt, author of The Origins of Totalitarianism. Arendt might be best known for coining the phrase “the banality of evil” in her reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961, but in this episode Sean and Lyndsey discuss Arendt's insights into the roots of mass movements, how her flight from Nazi occupation shaped her worldview, and how loneliness and isolation — which abound in our world today — can...


The War in Ukraine, Explained — Part 4: The future of Europe

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is one of the biggest and most confusing political events of our lifetimes. We aim to bring some clarity in this special four-part series from Vox Conversations and host Zack Beauchamp, The War in Ukraine, Explained. In part four, Zack speaks with author, political scientist, and scholar of European politics Ivan Krastev. They discuss the reverberations of Russia's invasion of Ukraine across Europe, from a sudden change of course in Germany and elections in...


Michael Lewis on why Americans distrust experts

Sean Illing talks with writer Michael Lewis about why it is that Americans are so good at producing knowledge, but so bad at identifying and utilizing that knowledge — the central issue of the new season of his podcast "Against the Rules." They discuss who counts as an expert, some fundamental impediments to disseminating knowledge, and whether or not there is a possible future where Americans regain their trust in experts, institutions, and each other. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling),...