Category Archives: Podcasts

Podcast: The Octoroon and Other Fantasies

I wish I could just pop over to The Jewish Museum of London to see their current exhibition ‘Blood’, which is open until 28 February 2016. Being on the other side of the world, there’s little chance of that happening, but it looks fascinating.

The next best option is to listen to Professor Roger Luckhurst, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature at Birbeck, University of London. He  gave a presentation there on 26 November 2015 which riffed on the topic of blood, called ‘Blood Fractions: The Octoroon and Other Fantasies’.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the slave trade, colonial administration and racial science developed a whole structure and language for calculating the precise mixture of blood in the offspring of white Europeans and their subject populations. The official line was that mixing was impossible, but the improvised language of ‘half-bloods’, ‘quadroons’, ‘octoroons’, and other terms suggested otherwise. This was the vast mixed population that existed ‘beyond the pale.’ In Victorian culture, the octoroon (a person with one-eighth black blood) was a kind of vanishing point, a focus of anxiety about detecting the taint of ‘bad’ blood. While in the twentieth century, the Nazis sought to protect ‘pure’ German blood from becoming tainted by the blood of Jews. In this talk Professor Luckhurst explores literary and cultural representations of mixed bloods.

You can hear it at Backdoor Broadcasting at

http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2015/11/roger-luckhurst-blood-fractions-the-octoroon-and-other-fantasies/

After warning that much of his talk would be offensive and placed in air quotes, he starts with a digression on Dracula before moving on to the gradations of colour described in the literature of slave owners.  Calculations down to 1/512th ‘negro’ heritage were reflected in some of the sensation literature of the day, but were revisited in the research justifying the anti-semitism of Nazi Germany.  Lest we think that such concepts are firmly cemented in the past, he closes by looking at the blood quantum laws that define membership in some Native American nations today.

A wide-ranging and interesting podcast.

Advertisements

He’s b-a-a-c-c-k-k

Mike Duncan, that is, at the revolutionspodcast.com  website.

He’s just embarked on the Haiti Revolution.  He finished up a few months ago on the French Revolution (which took about a year), then took a few months off while his wife had their second baby. In recent years, he’s also covered the American Revolution and the English Civil War.  He started off with the History of Rome, but that was before I started listening to him. All his podcasts are available on the site.

There’s nothing very high-tech or overly academic here; just a pleasant American voice, good story-telling, and an ability to draw out the narrative from a mass of details.

I’m glad he’s back and I’m happy to travel (mentally, at least) to the Caribbean for a few months.

My new best friends on podcast

I’m really enjoying Chat10Looks3, a podcast put together by Leigh Sales and Annabelle Crabbe.  You can subscribe on I-tunes or download them from their website at  http://www.chat10looks3.com/   It’s worth downloading them all and listening from the beginning because there’s quite a few in-jokes.

crabbe_sales

They rabbit on about the books they’ve read, films they’ve seen, a little bit of current affairs and politics, favourite recipes and -yes- they cook cakes and biscuits for each other. Podcasts are often interrupted by their children coming to the door, the sound of them eating their delicious gifts to each other and bursts of laughter.  It’s like sitting beside two uproariously funny girlfriends having a coffee.

It was through Chat10Looks3 that I heard about a fantastic podcast called The Living Room by Diane Weipert

https://i1.wp.com/loveandradio.org/wp-content/uploads/window3-752x490.jpg

(http://loveandradio.org/2015/03/the-living-room/)

What a podcast! Within 30 I found myself recoiling in disgust at the narrator’s voyeurism, sobbing at the sadness of what she saw, and wondering if, by making this podcast, she has committed an even more egregious betrayal.   It’s one of the best podcasts I’ve listened to- see if you agree.

The 2015 Hazel Rowley Lecture, Adelaide Writers Week

I’ve been very much enjoying catching up on the podcasts from the 2015 Adelaide Writers Week. What a terrific site!

The 2015 Hazel Rowley Memorial Lecture was delivered by David Marr.   Unlike Rowley, who wrote from historical sources after her subjects had died, Marr comes to writing biography through journalism, particularly through the genre of the long form political profile of 5000-10,000 words- a length rarely encouraged in our sound-bite, tablet-friendly, swipe-driven media landscape.

marr1marr3

marr2Marr particularly embraces The Quarterly Essay format, which at 30,000 words, is a form that provides scope for a slim biography of subjects who are still alive, still dangerous and where there is still time to warn.  I’ll certainly be dusting off his Quarterly Essay on Tony Abbott after recent events, and his latest one on Bill Shorten landed in my letterbox this week.

Marr recounted being tackled by a psychiatrist on Q&A who derided his qualification to make assessments of character, claiming it as a skill that psychiatrists took years of training to master.  However, as Marr pointed out, biographers are in the “business” of character too. In the maelstrom of politics, character, he argues, is fixed.  In both political and literary biography, the approach is the same: to discover the character, paint the world, follow the life and rate the work.

The winner of the 2015 Hazel Rowley fellowship was announced: Caroline Baum. She will write on Lucy Dreyfus, the wife of Alfred Dreyfus.  She delivered what sounds to have been an unexpectedly emotional acceptance speech which, like Marr’s presentation, honoured Rowley as a biographer in a fitting tribute.

Podcast: Margaret Bird on time consciousness in 18th century England

margaretbird

Backdoor Broadcasting has a wonderful archive of  UK academic podcasts on a wide range of topics.  I enjoyed listening to historian Margaret Bird from Royal Holloway, University of London, speaking on “Inculcating an appreciation of time pressure in the young: the training of children for working life in 18th-century England.”

Abstract: The rearing of children has been a topic at the centre of academic debate since the Annales historian Philippe Ariès analysed le sentiment de l’enfance in 1960.
Margaret Bird’s exploration of the tensions between respecting children as individuals and the need to hurry them into maturity for working life relates to the mercantile and manufacturing class in England. Understanding time pressure, as in expecting six-year-olds to watch the clock, formed part of their moulding as useful members of society. Time-conscious capitalism and Calvinism lay behind much of the thinking. It draws in part on the newly published diary of Mary Hardy, wife of a farmer and manufacturer.

Bird challenges E. P. Thompson’s assertion that time-consciousness was a result of industrialization. Instead she argues that during the 18th century, before the rise of large-scale industrialization, middle-class mercantile families had a strong consciousness of time and inculcated it into their children from a very early age.  She uses as her source the family diary of Mary Hardy (see website), the wife of a Norfolk farmer, master and brewer. She kept a diary for 36 years, running to half a million words, detailing family life and business operations on a daily basis.A second diary penned by her apprentice covers four of those years. Working on the Mary Hardy diaries has been a long-term project (25 years!) for Margaret Bird, who has editted and published them in a four-volume set, with a detailed commentary to come.

It’s a lively presentation by someone who obviously loves her project, well-integrated into the academic literature.  The website has the powerpoint images that were shown during the presentation, and the question time that follows.

Podcast: Linda Colley on Magna Carta

magnacarta

The Magna Carta has had a Big Year Out in 2015, the 800th anniversary of its signing.  A search on ABC Radio National’s webpage will bring up lots of podcasts and programs, and arguably there’s quite enough podcasts about Magna Carta already.

But I was rather taken by this one delivered by historian Linda Colley in 2014 from Backdoor Broadcasting.

Professor Linda Colley CBE (Shelby M. C. Davis 1958 Professor of History, Princeton University) – Magna Carta in British History: Memory, Inventions and Forgetting

Abstract: 2015 will witness celebrations of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Yet how this iconic text has been understood, used and commemorated has changed markedly over the centuries, not just in England, but throughout the British Isles and in the one-time British Empire. This lecture explores some of these shifts over time, and discusses how – and how far – the cult that evolved around this text can be related to the UK’s lack of a written constitution.

She explores the nature of the Magna Carta as a written product and physical artefact and juxtaposes it with the American constitution.  It’s delivered very (very) slowly and deliberately, and takes it as a historical and political phenomenon rather than a strictly legal one.  Linda Colley (author of Britons and the excellent The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh which I reviewed here)  is a historian of empire, and so she particularly deals with the influence of Magna Carta on nineteenth century colonies.