To the Threshold

By Arielle Swartz, Carly, Evan Hanec, SImone Rodger and Ciara Rose

This project solicits attention to the nature of feedback loops by dramatizing, sonically, the many dimensions of feedback loops and thresholds. Injuries are never one-dimensional.  And rebuttals to injury are also not one-dimensional. Expanding the boundaries of the threshold requires encountering its limit and applying pressure on all sides.  In this audio essay, you’ll encounter a range of sonic feedback loops, including the interplay between voices and listening, events and their echoes, violence and rebuttals.


Throughout the semester we discussed injuries and rebuttals. We chose to create a clear discrepancy between hearing and listening in order to address how we handle injuries and rebuttals. Listening can involve learning from injury; listening to and responding to rebuttals has the capacity to transform the individual and the environment in which an injury exists.

In this audio essay, we open and close with a “wall of sound”: indistinct and indiscernible sounds, falling over one another while competing to be at the forefront of the audible. This was our attempt at creatively illustrating the feedback loops we encounter in daily life; the entire podcast is also a salute to feedback loops, as we begin and close the podcast in the same way. We decided to use this sound design to agitate the listener enough to create some disquiet– to try and curtail “knowing in advance.” Often, podcasts follow a familiar beginning, middle and end narrative, one that is comfortable and well-known to listeners. It’s more difficult to examine threshold boundaries in a space of comfort and already-knowing.

Suggested resources

Claudia Rankine, Citizen, Graywolf Press, 2014.

Nina Sun Eidsheim, “Music as a Vibrational Practice,”Sensing Sound: Singing and Listening as Vibrational Practices. Duke University Press, 2015. 

Claudia Ranking reading Citizen at the 92nd Street Y

Thank you 

Thank you to Ada and group members.

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Marginalization and Health

By Jacey Magnussen

This audio project is intended to be a beginning point for thinking about the feedback loop between marginalization and unmet health care needs. A person’s environment and social context has an important impact on their health, and exclusion from health care keeps many people at a significant disadvantage. This exclusion is a form of violence.

Health is at once seen as a requirement for people to be productive, contributing members of a capitalist society; but through the privatization of certain aspect of health care, and the physical and social barriers that people encounter, health is not equally accessible to all people. Here is a comprehensive bibliography of references used in this project.

Thank you 

Thanks to Irene Shankar and Isaiah MacDonald, who shared important insights about health care practices and exclusions.

For more information on this topic, explore the links below:

Monuments and Monstrosities

The Social Determinants of Health

Creative Commons Sounds:

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The Culture Podcast

By Travis Presbitero

This audio essay take the form of a mixtape, curated by a philosophy student who is investigating the interplay of critical artistic expression with the insights of artists.  Its accompanying image is a metaphor for the concrete culture of hip-hop music, reflecting an exploration of the genres roots and love/hate relationship with the power of “free” speech.


Speech shapes the brain’s neural pathways, and it shapes both our subjectivity and objectivity. With this in mind, I’d argue that it is fundamental to use sound as a rebuttal to violence, as sound is an originator of violence. If we can rectify not just the sounds of hate speech but its intentions, and shape its disordered impact, I believe we will have found a way to systematically heal violence itself.

Thank you 

Thank you to all of the artists and creatives who’ve spent time cultivating each piece of work incorporated into this podcast. I sincerely hope your voice and intentions have been portrayed authentically.


Comedy Sketch
Dave Chapelle – Killing Them Softly

Songs Shared
J-Cole – Neighbours
T.I. – We Will Not
50 Cent – Hustlers Ambition
Kanye West – New Slaves
Tupac Shakur – Changes
Kendrick Lamar – U

Interviews Shared
J-Cole Live at Madison Square Garden
Blacktree TV Hip-Hop Vs America
Kanye West and Zane Lowe
Tupac in the Studio
Kendrick Lamar Talks About ‘u’, Depression & Suicidal Thoughts MTV News

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Presupposed, Predisposed

By Chris Shaw, Simone Semere & Jenny West

In many cases, the carceral system leads to injuries–violence, surveillance, discrimination–that lead directly to more injuries, given how difficult it is to protest this kind of violence.  This audio essay looks to Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong! as resources for thinking through this double injury.  The essay includes two first-person reflections on the exclusionary nature of the law and its enforcement; listeners are encouraged to know that these stories include content describing violence.  

In the image, Aalayna, the young woman interviewed in the audio essay, is shown after the encounter that she describes in the podcast; the image on the bottom left was taken the day after the encounter, and the image to the right was taken two weeks later.  When she asked for help, no help was given.

Thank you 

We would like to thank Aalayna for her bravery in talking about her experience.  We would also like to thank Simon for his.

References and Notes

Monplaisir. (2017). Overdriven Melancholic Guitar. On Power Animal [MP3]. Retrieved from: 

Philip, M. N., & Boateng, S. A. (2011). Zong! #11. Zong! (PAGE NUMBER) Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Rankine, C. (2015). Citizen: An American lyric. , UK: Penguin Books.

Bolanos, M.H. (2017). Melocholic Kid. On Unchained Melodies Vol. 2.

Two short passages were shared from Citizen and Zong! (They are not written in in the show notes because of copyright laws). That being said, we highly encourage anybody and everybody to read both books in their whole. There are many, many more examples of the repetition of violence in Citizen: An American Lyric. Likewise, Zong! features many, many more poems that are just as haunting as Zong! #11. In our audio project, Zong! #11 was read in one way, but the structure of the poem allows for it to be read many different ways. This could incite different interpretations of the poem and thus is another reason to read it.

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By Nikko Jacobs, Shepherd Mtombeni, Alyssa, Simone, Bronte and Christine

Do you feel your heart beat quicken when someone says something that makes you uncomfortable? That hits your ear and echoes through your head? That turns your stomach in knots and tightens your chest? The feedback loops that exist in those moments are explored in this podcast.

Reflections by the audio creators

We all have thoughts and ideas that are not necessarily popular, and more times than not, we leave this in our heads. Conversation is important, though: if we do not ask, react, counter or talk, our opinions get formed by our selves alone. This is never ideal because our own knowledge is limited.

Thank you 

Thank you, Shepherd.

Ada Jaarsma, thank you for teaching the course in which we created this audio project. It allowed us to converse about topics that, outside of the space you provided, would not happen. It was the spark we needed to engage in conversation.

References and suggested resources

Before recording our audio essay we watched the following PBS and Jay Smooth videos as a prompt for discussion. We recommend them to our listeners. 

PBS NewsHour. (2017, November 30). What happens when I try to talk race with white people

Jay Smooth. (2008, July 21). How To Tell Someone They Sound Racist.  

Louis C.K. (2010, September 20). Offended by the n-word

Song attributions

Mica Paris– Don’t Give Me Up (sampled)

Imagination– All Night Loving (sampled) 

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Light reflecting on a dark forest

Above the Treetops

By Lynn Bui, James Boyko, Kathryn Connelly, Athena, Courtney and Melissa
In which six philosophy students go in search of concrete and impassioned stories about “the dark forest,” a concept at the heart of Jessica Abel’s exploration of audio creation.  This audio essay contains a series of carefully framed and edited interviews, each of which dramatize the affective, aesthetic and existential dimensions of creative practices.  What we learn from these first-person stories is that each person’s encounter with the anxiety of bringing something new into the world is utterly singular, and yet at the same time we can tap into a shared understanding about the very nature of “action” –or that essentially existential project of translating the intangible into the tangible.  

One of the creators, Courtney, draws out the existential lessons of this project in this way, referring to a phrase of Hannah Arendt’s:  “The dark forest is real. Although this is not seen physically, it has a certain ‘stubborn thereness.’  It is there, where we can feel it, where we can experience it: it is  part of life, as life itself is a process of self-creation.”   In order to live together with one’s self, as Arendt puts it, a person must find himself or herself through the dark forest:  “the place you have to go to hear the next version of yourself” (Jessica Abel, Out on the Wire, p143).

Thank you 

Shout out to Ari for letting us use her story regarding a Dark Forest. And special thanks to Riograce for providing us with her story concerning an experience with the Dark Forest, to Devon Covert for his time and the use of his voice, to Pola for sharing her very heartfelt and personal experience of the Dark Forest, and to Katelyn for sharing her experience about her Dark Forest.   Group members also thank and acknowledge each other for their work on this project:  “We did it guys!”

References and attributions

Jessica Abel, Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio.  Broadway Books, 2015.

Jessica Abel, Out on the Wire podcast, especially episode 7, “The Dark Forest”

“I believe in your victory (This will destroy you remix),” by Chriskosty (Soundcloud); licence CC BY 3.0

“Waiting for you,” by Borrtex (Free Music Archive); licence CC BY-NC 4.0

“Left is Right,” by Steven Ondas (Soundcloud)

“Explosions in the Sky–Your hand in mine,” by Lorelei Bar II (Soundcloud); licence CC BY 3.0

Llums al bosc 4 (Colour photograph), by Joan Sorolla, licence CC BY 2.0

For further encounters with Dark Forests

Devon Convert’s review site, Read Into It:  Reviews that delve deeply into the mythos of movies

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Painting of an abstract depiction of networked relations

The Post-modern Ritual

By Lia Serpentini, Spencer Gordon, Ciara Rose, Yasmine Mazouzi, Alynn R. and Evan Hanec

Vibrant social movements like Black Lives Matter emerge out of social and networked media. Yet our attentiveness to “likes” and other forms of feedback lead to an echo chamber, detached from other perspectives entirely. 

What does it mean to live existentially in the New Media Age?  As Evan explains in this audio essay’s introduction, “the decision to exist online–in the face of users, profiles and algorithms–is riddled with existential questions.”   Moreover, as Lia points out, Hannah Arendt wrote that “no one has ever doubted that truth and politics are on bad terms with each other” (“Truth and Politics,” The Portable Hannah Arendt 545).  Posing a question that draws out the existential impact of social media, Spencer asks: “to what degree does social media have the ability to impact us and those around us?”

Is it important to be true to one’s self online?    And what does it mean to participate in the rituals of social media? And what’s the impact of social media on our very understanding of free will?    What would Arendt think about the truth, representation and “fake news” that we encounter in social media?  If thinking is a solitary and individual activity, where’s the line between thinking and our networked lives on social media?  After all, as Paul Gillin states, “Transparency may be the most disruptive and far-reaching innovation to come out of social media.”

Thank you 

Special thank you to Cam, Jonathan and everyone else who spent the time to share your ideas with us!

References and suggested resources 

Hannah Arendt, “The Two-in-One,” as excerpted from The Life of the Mind vol. 1 in The Portable Hannah Arendt. Ed. Peter Baehr  (Penguin Books 2003, 408-418).

For more on the social and political import of social media, consider:  Nadja Sayej on the #metoo movementThe Guardian Dec 1, 2017

For more on the phenomenon of “unthinking” and Arendt’s own analysis, see Margarethe von Trotta, Hannah Arendt (Zeitgeist films, 2012)

For resources that examine the conceptual impact of social media: 

Larry Rosen, iDisorder: Understanding our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming its hold on us. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013.

David Faris, Dissent and Revolution in a Digital Age: Social Media, Blogging and Activism in Egypt. I. B. Tauris, 2015.

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media. MIT Press, 1994.

Robert Sapolsky, Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst.  Penguin Books, 2017.

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Time Cover image of Kaepernick taking a knee

Take a Knee

By Chayce Mindra
How should we make sense of the tensions between Colin Kaepernick’s impassioned critique of racializing violence and its uptake in the public sphere?  This audio essay takes Kaerpernick seriously as a philosopher and political theorist, exploring his protest in the broader context of commercialized sports and mass media.  Reflecting on the existentialist import of this project, Chayce explains:

“When looking back at the original interview with Kaepernick following his first recorded protest, I was drawn into the words that he kept using around being able to ‘look himself in the mirror.'”

This motif of “looking one’s self in the mirror” resonates closely with Hannah Arendt’s account of moral reckoning, which hinges upon one pressing question:  “whether I shall be able to live with myself in peace when the time has come to think about my deeds and words.”    If the answer is no, then Arendt raises the strong possibility that, existentially and pragmatically, such a person is a sleepwalker; if the answer is yes, then this person holds real potential for acting upon their own conscience, even if it is at odds with the moral presumptions of their own community.

Resources and references

John Branch, “The Awakening of Colin Kaepernick,” The New York Times Sept 7, 2017

Full interview with Colin Kaepernick (Aug 29, 2016)

Donald Trump, “Fire NFL players who kneel during the national anthem” (video)  Sept 23, 2017 news services:  “NFL owners called for depositions, cellphone records in Colin Kaepernick collusion case.”

“Colin Kaepernick will not be silenced,” GQ editors, Nov 13, 2017

Chris Chavez, “Here’s how you can watch Colin Kaepernick’s Full Muhammad Ali Legacy Award Speech,” Dec 6, 2017

Suggested resources for further inquiry:

Hannah Arendt’s essay, “The Two in One” from The Life of the Mind Vol. 1, available in excerpted form in The Portable Hannah Arendt, edited by Peter Baehr (Penguin Books 2000, 408-418).

As the creator of this audio project, Chayce writes, “I hope that individuals that listen to my podcast episode have thought provoked, in them, on whether they are a ‘sleepwalker’ regarding their own consciousness, or if they are willing to wake up and make changes if it is something they believe in.”

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A mock ad, with the words "got cynicism?"

Unpacking Cynicism

By Derek Phung, Kenny and Anonymous

What does the term “cynicism” mean to you?  In this audio essay, three undergrads dive into the complex history of cynicism and learn that cynicism, in its origins, was far removed from how we understand it today.  And tracking its genealogy leads to pressing existential insights: namely that there is a fragility to knowledge, and there is a relationality to knowledge-practices.

Moreover, as Kenny Reilly explains, perhaps unpacking cynicism is itself a way of providing a “cure” for cynicism. Invoking the decolonial existentialism of Frantz Fanon, he states, “We cannot hope to change the world if we are not willing to change how we see the world.”

And as Derek Phung points out, whereas Hannah Arendt defines cynicism as “a refusal to believe in the truth of anything” (The Portable Hannah Arendt, 568), we can look to interdisciplinary conversations across philosophy, history, psychology and neuroscience… and hope to forge “inoculations” to cynicism and its symptoms.

Thank you

One of the creators states: “I would like to thank my group for their outstanding contributions to this project!” 


Beck, Julie. (2017, March 11). This article won’t change your mind. The Atlantic. 

Big Think. (2017, June 28). The Neuroscience of Creativity, Perception, and Confirmation Bias | Beau Lotto [Video File]. 

Boswell, J, F., Thompson-Hollands, J., Farchione T. J., & Barlow, D. H. (2013). Intolerance of uncertainty: A common factor in the treatment of emotional disorders. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(6), 630-645. doi: 10.1002/jclp.21965

Cognitive dissonance. (n.d). Retrieved Dec. 7, 2017.

Friston, Karl. (2017, May 18). The mathematics of mind-time. Aeon

Future of StoryTelling. (2015, September 11). Beau Lotto – Understanding Perception: How We Experience the Meaning We Create [Video File].  

Schoendorff, Benjamin. (n.d). What is psychological flexibility? Retrieved Dec. 7, 2017.

Torres, Nicole. (2014, December 24). Mindfulness mitigates biases you may not know you have. Harvard Business Review.

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Cartoon of an individual wearing feathers with a big "x" in a dialogue box

The Banality of Appropriation

By Mackenzie Fowler, Christopher Shaw, Jerrica and Jennifer

“What boils my blood,” Mackenzie Fowler explains, “is what appropriation signifies: the history of colonialism and privilege of the West. In this podcast, I can be heard asking the listeners to think of how they perpetuate colonialism in their day-to-day life,” a question that emerged from her reading of Frantz Fanon.

“There was a danger that demoralizing Eichmann would clothe him in a metaphysical aura of ‘satanic greatness’ that he in no way approximated” (The Portable Hannah Arendt, xxv).  This audio essay extends Hannah Arendt’s indictment of the “banality” of evil to contemporary scenarios that dramatize, in one way or another, the violence of cultural appropriation.  In part through tensions that emerge in and through interviews, this essay stages a set of complex questions:  what counts as “culture”?  how does a certain “banality” lead to the violence of appropriation?  What makes cultural appropriation recognizable as a form of oppression?  What, ultimately, is the difference between cultural appreciation and appropriation?

References and attributions

Hannah Arendt, “The Two in One” from The Life of the Mind Vol. 1, available in excerpted form in The Portable Hannah Arendt. Ed.Peter Baehr (Penguin Books 2000, 408-418).

Hannah Arendt, “Banality and Conscience: The Eichmann Trial and its Implications.” The Portable Hannah Arendt. Ed. Peter Baehr (Penguin Books 2000, 313-408).

Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks. (Translated by Philcox, R.). (New York: Grove Press, 2017).

“Storm Passing” by Podington Bear (Free Music Archives); licence CC BY-NC 3.0

Suggestions by the creators

Drawing inspiration from Hannah Arendt and Franz Fanon, this podcast is aimed at encouraging people—in particular white people—to think. With many topics relating to culture and its appropriation packed into 20 minutes, we advise you to explore these suggested readings. We urge you to think.

Portable Hannah Arendt – Specifically the whole section “Banality and Conscience: The Eichmann Trial and its Implications”, but the chapter “Truth and Politics” could be useful as well. We encourage listeners to read the whole book.

Black Skin, White Masks by Franz Fanon – This book provides insight into life of a colonized society as Fanon explores his own experiences as a person of colour in a French colony.  But this book holds tremendous import for all of us who want to condemn and combat injustice. As Fanon writes, “And we see that through a specific problem there emerges one of action” (p.204).

In The Wake – On Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe – Chapter One, The Wake, gives insight on the author’s experience of “wakefulness”; the coming conscience of how her and her families lives are structured, the awareness of their being. The entire book is a good read.

What Writers Really Do When They Write by George Saunders – Saunders gives sound advice about writing. However, there are valuable messages within his tips. Topics such as story building and cliché promote thinking: people are more than what we see, with inner dialogue and an essence to their being.

The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon – Another book by Fanon, where he explores and analyses what he refers to as the “dehumanizing effects of colonialization”.

A Dying Colonialism by Franz Fanon – The chapter Voice of Algeria gives insight into the consciousness of those living in an occupied country. Once again, though this chapter is good, and the whole book is recommended.

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Image of many pairs of feet, in the hold of a slave ship

Plant (n) ation

By Rita Antwi

How is sound related to solidarity?  How is sound integral to relational ontologies?    Its title gets to the heart of this audio essay:  “Plantation” for the fact that slaves were taken from their countries, enslaved and forced into slave labour on plantation farms.  “Plant” for the coded messages that (were planted) were used by enslaved people as codes to communicate, send messages and feel a sense of liberty.  “Nation” for the ship, the plantation, the reinforcement of colonization through modern-day systemic racism.    This essay explores the import of spiritual music for existential encounters with sound, on the one hand, and the ongoing legacies of slavery, on the other.

Rita explains, “The reason I put brackets around the letter (n) is to demonstrate what Frantz Fanon says in his book Black Skin, White Masks:  “The Negro enslaved by his inferiority, the white man enslaved by his superiority alike behave in accordance with a neurotic orientation.”

Fred Moten and Stefano Harney write, in their book The Undercommons, about sound and the crucial role that sound plays in knowing how enslaved people were thinking and feeling in the hold.  It is through sound, especially through soul music, jazz and hip hop, that listeners can become plural and in tuned with the oppression of others.   They write, “To have been shipped is to have been moved by others, with others.  It is to feel at home with the homeless, at ease with the fugitive, at peace with the pursued, at rest with the ones who consent not to be one”

“Because while certain abilities – to connect, to translate, to adapt, to travel – were forged in the experiment of hold, they were not the point. As David Rudder sings, ‘how we vote is not how we party.’ The hold’s terrible gift was to gather dispossessed feelings in common, to create a new feel in the undercommons.”   This audio essay explores the feel in the undercommons by inviting listeners to immerse themselves in the sound and feel of spirituals. 

References and Sources

Frantz Fanon, 2008. Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Richard Philcox. Grove Press.

Stefano Harney & Fred Moten, 2013. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Minor Compositions.

Jessica Abel, 2015. “The Deep Sea: Sound,” Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio.  Broadway Books.

“Roll Jordan Roll” (spiritual, as depicted in the film 12 Years a Slave)

“Wade in the Water” (spiritual, as performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock)

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (spiritual, as performed by The Plantation Singers)

For more on the spirituals and their import for slavery and its afterlife, see “Pathways to Freedom: Music.”

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Image of a white mask, with brown glass eyes

Layer of Life: “Intentionally Removed”

By Will Cowan, N.H., Shan, Conrad and Anonymous 

“I was angry for a reason.”  Through interviews and a lively roundtable discussion, five undergrads dig into the complexities of privilege, discrimination and embodied life.  Conversations are difficult on various levels, as the students and their interlocutors share stories of violence and reflect on the racialized assumptions at play within Canadian discourse. The dissonance between students is itself instructive, prompting one participant to point to the tape of the audio essay as itself exemplary of the colonialism that Frantz Fanon protested so powerfully in Black Skin,White Masks.  Perhaps this epiphany is precisely what Fanon would have hoped would emerge from an existential project on “privilege.” 

Musing about this process of producing and editing tape, N.H. describes a retrospective desire to re-word or re-state key parts of the dialogue that listeners will hear in this audio essay.  In part because of its spontaneous dialogue, this project enacts its own thematic concerns with the “masks” or facades that animate social conventions and scripts– especially those masks that, as Fanon puts it, reflect and reinforce colonial dynamics.  What’s at stake in generalizations about social categories or identities?   How significant is the context in which one person recognizes another?   N. H.’s reflections point to the complexity of these questions, pondering their own degree of freedom in participating in the project–and they invoke Fanon’s searing indictment of the violence of recognition that, at the same time, invokes the possibility of emancipatory forms of recognition: 

“Both [the black and white man] have to move away from the inhuman voices of their respective ancestors so that a genuine conversation can be born… [so] why not simply try to touch the other, feel the other, discover the other?”  (Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks)  

Thank you 

One creator of the project states:  “I’d like to say a huge thank you to the friends and family who allowed me to interview them.”

References and attributions (with suggestions for further reading)

Clifford, W. K. 2008. “The Ethics of Belief,” in The Ethics of Belief. Ed. A. J. Burger. CreateSpace Publishing.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 2008.  Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment.  Routledge.

Coulthard, Glen Sean. 2014. Red Skin, White Masks. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Frantz. 2008. Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Richard Philcox. Grove Press.

McIntosh, Peggy. 1989.  “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” National SEED Project

Sommers, Sam.  2008. “All Stereotypes are True? Since When?” Psychology Today 

Photograph by R. Nial. Bradshaw (Flickr)

Videos referenced in the audio essay:  “Dear White People” scene and Jimmy Kimmel scene

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Historical sketch of "evolution"

Bad Blood

By Rita Antwi
In which Rita tracks down the horrific historical and contemporary “abstractions” at play within scientific racism.  This audio essay includes excerpts from Dr. Dre/ Kendrik Lamar’s song Deep Water, from the Compton album.  Rita explains:

“There is a part in the song where a Black male is drowning. This symbolizes to me the helplessness that we sometimes face, especially in terms of scientific racism.”

Suggested resources for further inquiry:

This documentary is particularly useful: The Deadly Deception of the Tuskegee study

And this article gave me a lot of insight into what happened in Alabama, the aftermath, and how victims coped. It’s important to note that not only were the men with syphilis affected, but their families were greatly impacted as well.

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By Emily and Daniel Blanchard.
In which Emily and Daniel seek after the “critical” in critical theory, dramatizing the very stakes of life and labour within neoliberal structures. This reflective audio essay was created in the context of Feminist Philosophy (fall 2016).  Recommended reading is Nancy Fraser’s “How Feminism Became Capitalism’s Handmaiden.”   

Reflections by this episode’s creators:

“I really hope these podcasts will spur a new type of movement for critical theory. The process of creating an audio essay like this really pushed me to have more off-the-cuff conversations on these subjects.”

“I hope that the subject of our podcast will stimulate reflection on the direction that the struggle for gender emancipation has taken, and rectification that may be necessary. Addressing gender disparities without addressing neoliberalism is futility.”


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The Philosophy of Sport: The Drama of Fitness Measurements

By Ajay Bains & Chayce Mindra
In which Ajay and Chayce lay bare an under-theorized drama at the heart of elite athletics:  the drama of measuring athletic skill, promise and capacity.   In this episode, created for a philosophy of science course in winter 2017, you’ll discover how Foucault’s insights into biopower illuminate the stakes of abstraction in the context of sports.

Fitness measurements add to the drama of sport by having set values about what is “acceptable” and “unacceptable” in an athlete’s performance– and this creates two very polarizing sides.  On one side, you have the “underdog,” and on the other, you have the “superstar”… and it is the battle between these two sides that gives sport its entertainment value and drama. 

Additional & Suggested Resources

Dean, M. (2010). Governmentality: Power and rule in modern society. Sage publications.

Genel, K. (2006). The question of biopower: Foucault and Agamben. Rethinking Marxism18(1), 43-62.

Kuzmits, F. E., & Adams, A. J. (2008). The NFL combine: does it predict performance in the National Football League?. The Journal of strength & conditioning research22(6), 1721-1727.

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That’s effing Racist! 

By Haley Arnholtz, Anonymous, Andie Deak, Tyra Jarbeau, Anonymous, Patrick Imgrogno, Hannah, and Justine MacDonald.

Today’s keyword is:  scientific racism.

Chapter 1: Case IQ  (trigger warning: curative language for mental disability is used in this discussion of scientific racism and eugenics)

Chapter 2: Phrenology & birth control history

Chapter 3: Interview about epigenetics 

This collaborative audio essay was created in a Feminist Philosophy course in fall 2016. 

Suggested additional resources:

Bethy Squires, “The Racist and Sexist History of Keeping Birth Control Side Effects Secret

US District Court for the Northern District of California (1972): Larry P. et al, Plaintiffs, v Wilson Riles et al, Defendants. 

Etienne Benson, “Intelligent Intelligence Testing

Racism and Immigration policy:The Richwine Affair


Reflections by the episode’s creators on the process of audio-creation:

“It was a learning experience. I gained a lot of insight into how alive racism is, while also learning how much work goes into putting everything together, making sure your script isn’t going to be too offensive while also trying to get the point across” (Anonymous).

“I would like to thank my professor Ada Jaarsma for opening up the world of sound design as a medium of resistance.” 

“Thanks to the entire group.”

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Love & Happiness

By Tessa Low, Shammy Minhas, Daria Nechaieva & Anonymous 
Four undergrads explore two especially meaningful abstractions:  “love” and “happiness.”  Is love the result of a parasite?  Are love and happiness synonymous?  What forces shape and help us understand the nature of love and happiness?  In this audio essay, created for a Philosophy of Science course in winter 2017, personal reflections intersect with a range of scientific and philosophical accounts.

Suggestions for further reading:

Alexander, Bruce K. (1981). “Rat Park,” Psychopharmacology.

Dfarhud, D. et al. (2014). “Happiness & Health: The Biological Factors– Systematic Review Article.”

Plato’s Phaedrus.

RadioLab, “The Scratch


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The Autistic Truth

By Breanna Dawe, Jarrett Very and Anonymous
This episode takes up the challenge in Melanie Yergeau’s stunning and productive response to “autism” diagnoses by exploring the dramas of abstraction at play within such diagnoses.   This project was created in the context of Philosophy of Science (winter 2017).

Reflections by this episode’s creators:

“We hope that with our audio project that we may have started the conversation to reduce the stigma that surrounds autism– and maybe even expose some of the truth between the ‘real’ autistic experience.”

“The kickback to our abstraction of ‘autism,’ its diagnosis, and treatment finally took place
when I decided to let the material speak…. Science has such power and
recognition in its findings, yet the experiences of those who are directly impacted by the disorder
are hardly given that acknowledgement…. Overall, the drama of our finished project made me realize that although a lot of research seeks to provide explanations for a given phenomena – and even though some findings are accurate – there are flaws and misinformed practices that are present. When looking to science for its interpretation of an abstraction, I will be critically analyzing whether it is ‘good’
science or bad.'”

Suggestions for further reading: 

M. Mintz (2017) “Evolution in the Understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Historical Perspectives,” Indian Journal of Pediatrics 84(1): 44-52.

Autism Speaks

S. H. Ameis et al (2016) “Antipsychotic Use Trends in Youth with ASD and/or Intellectual Disability: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry 55: 456-468.

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Never thought of it that way

By Shifrah Gadamsetti, Moe Hammoud, Simone Rodger, Spencer Strand, Anonymous, and Dan.
Today’s keyword is: Unlearning.

Embarking away from the traditional classroom structure is always difficult, but sometimes that embarkation is the best way for you to learn at the moment. It is daunting to have far less outlines for major projects, but that discomfort plays a key role in the course of learning– and unlearning– new things.  This collaborative project was created in the context of a Feminist Philosophy course in fall 2016.

Reflections by one of the creators:

“I’m hoping that our audio essay will help listeners to challenge the idea that the typical classroom setting is the only place where learning exists and is valued. Also I hope that this audio essay highlights the importance of unlearning as well, and that it gives ‘never thought of it that way’ response”– anonymous.

Suggested additional resources for exploring unlearning include Erin Manning’s “10 Propositions for a Radical Pedagogy“, “What is Unlearning?” (Mithya Institute for Learning) and “Connections: Yesterday, Tomorrow, and You” (1978 BBC documentary by James Burke).

Credit and thanks for music to Yolam Perel.  And special thanks to Mr. Sra and Breanna Moore.

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“Male” “Female” “Other”

By Ciara Rose, Mikaela, Martina Tran, Kira Killippetto, and Anonymous.
Today’s key word is:  gender.

Five undergraduates, in careful conversation with their generous guests, explore the complex relational dynamics of gender.  Of especial note is the recursive quality of the discussion, since exploring “relationality” is itself a deeply relational activity.  This collaborative project was created in the context of a Feminist Philosophy course in fall 2016.

Suggested readings include B. Jackson’s  “Theory and Methods for Thinking Women” (Thinking Women and Health Care Reform in Canada).

Thanks to deraj for the sounds used in the episode.  Thank you to all the interviewees who participated in the podcast.

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Disfluently Fluent

By Spac.
In which an undergrad explores the abstractions at play within diagnoses involved with “stuttering.”  This project was produced in the context of a Philosophy of Science course in winter 2017. 

“We’ve been told and raised to believe in the ‘universal normal human,’ when in reality, humans come in variation.”  This audio essay looks to the research of Joshua St. Pierre, raising questions about the pathologizing of disfluent speech and the importance of disability studies.


Reflections by the audio-essay creator on additional resources:

       The American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association gave me a lot of quantitative and qualitative information on stuttering.

Joshua St. Pierre from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Alberta’s article, “Cripping Communication: Speech, Disability, and Exclusion in Liberal Humanist and Posthumanist Discourse.

Nina G: The Stand-Up Comedian Who Also Stutters  is an amazing kickback story.


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It’s 2016, we’re all equal! 

By PFA, Stephanie Butler, Shazia Hassam, & Anonymous (x3)

Today’s key word is:  equality.  As Dominique Clément writes, “Equality is talked about a lot, but not implemented in action” (1975). This audio essay, produced by six undergrads, explores the hopes, limitations and contradictions of “equality” as a political ideal for feminist and critical thought.  This collaborative essay was created in the context of a Feminist Philosophy course in fall 2016.


Baldwin, J. (1984). On Being White… And Other Lies. In J. Baldwin, Essence (pp. 1-3).

Lorde, A. (1984). Sister outsider. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press.

 THE CANADIAN PRESS. (6, Nov 2015). Because it’s 2015′: Justin Trudeau on gender-balanced cabinet.

Retrieved from:

CBC News. (20, Sep 2016). FULL SPEECH: Trudeau addresses UN General Assembly.

Retrieved from:

THE CANADIAN PRESS. (1, Jul 2016). Barack Obama champions tolerance in speech to House of Commons. Retrieved from:

jbranstetter04. (12, Jul 2008). Candidate George Bush Giving His Stump (campaign) Speech: Election 2000. Retrieved from:


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Evidence & the Placebo Effect

By Miah Godek & Monika Jarbouh
How much of the placebo effect is attributed to subjectivity?  What roles do placebos play in securing valid claims about evidence in biomedicine?  Two undergrads explore the import and epistemological complexities of placebos in this audio essay, created in the context of Philosophy of Science (winter 2017).

Reflections by the episode’s creators:

“I hope the next time you reach for a pill to help you solve a problem that you think about the culture you live in and how powerful suggestions and social constructs can be in influencing the way you think and what you believe to be true”– Monika Jarbouh

“Thank you to Ada Jaarsma, who helped us understand what placebos mean and why this topic is important and interesting.”

Suggestions for further reading:

Aalai, A. (2016). “Revisiting the Placebo Effect,” Psychology Today

Boyles, S. “Antidepressants No Better Than Placebo?”. WebMD.

Feinberg, C. (2013). “The Placebo Phenomenon”. Harvard Magazine.

Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink. Little Brown Back Bay Books. 56-57.


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Abstraction within Experimental Physiology

By Anonymous
Consider this representation of the “abstractions” that are created and deployed by scientists who work within experimental physiology, created by a student in Philosophy of Science (winter 2017).

The above diagram represents individual levels of abstraction with red arrows. In other words, each red arrow represents a modifying step that obscures each image from the previous one. The result is presentable results that differ from the initial phenomenon of interest.

This audio essay explores this path of abstraction by interviewing researchers on their experiences with each of the stages of abstraction.

In order to fully grasp the message being presented, you may want to check out the following resources:  to help understand cell culture to help understand statistics to help understand the basic goals of experimental physiology

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Mental Illness: It’s a Disorder, not a Decision

By Brian & Ronald
In which Brian & Ronald explore the legal, epistemological and moral limitations of the abstractions involved with diagnosing individuals with diagnoses of “mental illness.”  This audio essay was created in the context of a philosophy of science course (winter 2017).

Reflections by this episode’s creators

“This project aims to spark conversation and increase awareness and education for people experiencing mental illness. People don’t voluntarily choose to experience mental illness but rather the symptoms (and diagnoses associated with symptoms) are sparked by phenomena including chemical (im)balances, genetics, trauma or other seeming anomalies.  This audio essay’s objective is to encourage conversation and reduce stigma against marginalized individuals and populations.”

Thanks to Accelerated Ideas for the Lightshowers Track.

Suggestions for further reading:

To learn more about the categorization of an action as “criminal”:  Barnhorst, R. & Barnhorst, S. (2013). Criminal Law and the Canadian Criminal Code (6th ed.). Toronto, ON: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

To read about the section of the Criminal Code about the defense of mental disorders: Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c.46, s.16(1).

For more information about the case of Vince Li:  CBC News. (2017). Vince Li, Given Absolute Discharge

For more about a case in which dozens of patients are misdiagnosed with Altzheimers:  Seewer, J. (2017). Ohio Clinic falsely Told Dozens They Had Alzheimer’s, Lawsuits

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Mental Illness & Nutrition

By Anonymous
“You often hear that addiction runs in the family.  However, is this accurate?”  Two undergrads explore the dramas of abstraction at play within diagnoses of “mental illness,” especially in relation to the complexities of inheritance, epigenetics and diet.   This project was created for a Philosophy of Science course (winter 2017).

Suggested additional resources:

Health Canada. (2012). Do Canadian adults meet their nutritional requirments through food intake alone?

Health Canada. (2016). Body mass index, overweight or obese, self-reported, adult, by age group and sex (percent).

National Institute of Mental Health. (2015). Any mental illness (AMI) among U.S. adults.

Pauling, L., Itano, A, H., Singer, J.S., & Wells, C.I. (1949). Sick cell anemia, a molecular disease. Science, 110, 543-548.

Statistics Canada. (2007). Overview of Canadian’s eating habits. 

Thank you by the episode’s creators:

A big thank you to Dr. Bonnie Kaplan for her help and taking the time to discuss with me about her work in micronutrients and brain chemistry.

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By Cassie
A first-person reflection on the joys, possibilities and limitations of psychedelic drugs, especially for symptoms linked to depression.  This essay was created in the context of Philosophy of Science (winter 2017).

Thanks to InspectorJ at Freesound for the background sound used in the episode.

For further reading:

Erin Brodwin, “Why Psychedelic Drugs like Magic Mushrooms Kill the Ego and Fundamentally Transform the Brain” (Business Insider, 2017)

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Belgium – Namur 2004 : Living in a wheelchair (PHOTO/REPORTERS John Thys) Model Release Cf/ Car for handicapped persons – Physically – Disability – Social Security – Social Insurance – Mutual – Mutuality – Wheelchair – Physical disability – Social Security – Social Insurance – Medical wheel chair – Accident – Paralysis – Paralysed – Invalid disabled person – Security safety – Belt seat – Transport – Phone Booth – Phone Booth inadapted for the disabled person

Disability and “Ableism”

By Kelsey Hofstetter & Anonymous

In which two undergrads stage a debate about normativity, the nature of ableism and the importance of disability rights.    This audio debate was created in the context of Philosophy of Science (winter 2017).


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[Listening for things we don’t know how to listen for]