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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.




Why we're still postmodern (whatever that means)

Sean Illing talks with Stuart Jeffries, journalist and author of Everything, All the Time, Everywhere, about why postmodernism is so hard to define, and why — as Jeffries argues — it's still a very active presence in our culture and politics today. They discuss whether our desire should be understood as subversive or as a tool of capitalism, how postmodernism is inextricably linked with neoliberalism, and how to navigate our current culture of ubiquitous consumption and entertainment. What...

Even Better: Activism when you don't know where to start

Every Thursday in August, you'll hear Even Better on Vox Conversations, a special series focused on helping people live better lives individually and collectively. In this first episode, host Julia Furlan talks with activist, writer, and organizer Brea Baker. Brea's career has included student activism at Yale University, national organizing for the Women's March, and continues today through action-oriented work on behalf of progressive causes. Brea talks about how her work is informed by...

The Supreme Court's power grab

Sean Illing talks with Harvard Law professor Nikolas Bowie about the U.S. Supreme Court's recently-concluded term, which produced landmark opinions restricting the power of the EPA, expanding gun rights, and overturning Roe v. Wade. They discuss how the conservative court's arguments are structured and why they are in fact quite radical, what "legal liberalism" is and whether it has just been decisively repudiated, and whether there are any reforms that could stop the conservative majority...


How middlemen took over the economy

Vox's Emily Stewart talks with Kathryn Judge, professor at Columbia Law School and author of the new book Direct: The Rise of Middleman Economy and the Power of Going to the Source. They discuss how middlemen — which include real estate agents, stock brokers, but also Amazon and Walmart — came to assume such an outsized role in our economy, the pros and cons of middlemen in different market contexts, why Prof. Judge sees a fundamental difference between Etsy and Amazon, and how we consumers...


The necessity — and danger — of free speech

Sean Illing talks with Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan about his new book The Paradox of Democracy, which he co-authored with media studies professor Zac Gershberg. Sean and Margaret discuss the relationship between free expression and democratic society, talk about whether or not the January 6th hearings are doing anything at all politically, and discuss some potential ways to bolster democratic values in the media ecology of the present. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling),...


Hacking coral sex to save the reefs

Vox's Benji Jones talks with marine biologist Hanna Koch about her team's efforts to repopulate the planet's coral reefs through cutting-edge scientific intervention. They discuss what makes coral so unique as organisms, how scientists understand their reproductive behavior, and how they are working to respawn corals and repopulate reefs. Hanna explains why this work is so imperative — not just for the diverse array of marine life that coral reefs are home to, but for the sustainability of...


The price of keeping secrets

Sean Illing talks with professor Michael Slepian, author of The Secret Life of Secrets. This new book explores secret-keeping behavior and its consequences, as well as how secrecy relates to trust. Sean and Michael talk about what things we keep secret, why we're so worried about keeping them secret, and the toll that secret-keeping can have on us. They also talk about how the issue of secrecy relates to authenticity, and our fears of being judged by others. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling),...


Does China control Hollywood?

Vox's Alissa Wilkinson talks with Wall Street Journal reporter Erich Schwartzel about Red Carpet, his new book detailing the myriad ways that Hollywood movies are affected by China. They discuss how Chinese markets are essential for the budgetary math of big blockbusters, the role of the Chinese Communist Party's censors play in shaping the content of American films, and what this complicated global relationship might for Hollywood's future — and the future of movies in general. Host: Alissa...


Steve Bannon is still at war

Sean Illing talks with Jennifer Senior, the Pulitzer-winning staff writer at the Atlantic, about her recent piece on Steve Bannon called "American Rasputin." Through incredible firsthand access and detailed reporting, Senior shows how Bannon is still an effective media manipulator through his popular "War Room" podcast. Sean and Jennifer discuss what Bannon's true political beliefs might be, the role he played in plotting the January 6th attack on the Capitol, and the role he might already...


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,...