Podcast of the Week: Border Trilogy

The US government’s policy on illegal migration flows through the Sonoran desert is simple: its dangerous and therefore people should be deterred. That isn’t the case: in reality hundreds of migrants die each year trying to traverse the harsh environment that leads into the United States. Clearly the policy is broken, but how did it even get to this point? Radiolab’s “Border Trilogy” looks at the development of “Prevention Through Deterrence” since the late 1990s. 

It tells the story of how the students from Bowie High School in El Paso, a border town which used to be a major crossing point, fought back against frequent harassment from US border patrol. The level of grief emanating from the border communities eventually led to a change in policy, driving migrants streams away from cities and into the desert.

Simultaneously, the podcast reveals the story Jason De León, an anthropologist searching for migrants’ scattered belongings in the desert. One day he finds an arm and nothing more, leaving him wondering how many people have simply atrophied out there. Lastly it tells the story of Maricela, the Ecuadorian mother who never arrived in New York. 


You can also access part 1, part 2 and part 3 directly on Radiolab’s website. 

Podcast of the week: The Demise of the Hungarian Social Democrats

On the 8th of April, Victor Orban’s right-wing populist coalition Fidesz-KDNP won an astonishing 48.9% in the parliamentary election. The Socialist party–Dialogue for Hungary (MSZP), which had been ruling until Orban took power in 2010 and was the major opposition party since then, has received a humiliating 12.25%.

What has happened? Last October, Social Europe’s editor-in-chief Henning Meyer spoke about the demise of the Hungarian social democrats to former EU Commissioner and MSZP politician László Andor. They discuss the unexpected problems which arose from EU accession in 2004, the loss of MSZP’s constituency and Orban’s authoritarian tendencies.

This revealing half-hour is much recommended to those that want to not just shake their heads at Sunday’s results, but understand how contemporary Hungary is rolling.


The New Yorker Radio Hour: American Bombs Falling on Yemen

Abdulqader Hilal Al-Dabab, known as Hilal, was the mayor of Sana’a. He died in March, alongside more than 140 others, when a Saudi ‘double tap air strike’ hit a funeral ceremony. The falling walls of the Grand Hall buried him; and he passed away in the ambulance to the hospital.

Host Nicolas Niarchos speaks to Hilal’s son, a student in the US, about his father’s path and principles, and how we tried to keep Sana’a running throughout the war. Zooming out, the podcast also critically examines origins of the war and the British and American support to the Saudi air force, which keeps it going. And it talks about the future, which has just gotten even a bit bleaker, as a whole generation of potential peacemakers died that day in March.


‘Women Rule’ with Democratic Senator of North Dakota Heidi Heitkamp

On this week’s episode of ‘Women Rule – Backstage with Female Bosses’, POLITICO’s Anna Palmers sits with Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic Senator of traditionally Republican North Dakota, for an open talk about her politics.

The conversation touches upon many topics, for example Heitkamp’s impression that in American politics, regional divides are actually often stronger party or gender lines. (She comes from a very North Dakotan small, where her family made up 10% of the constituency.) They talk also about how it is to be a woman in politics, about alliances between female politicians, and about the importance of putting gender aside in political battles.

And then they speak of course about her – for a Democrat controversial – support for the Second Amendment and reluctance towards stronger gun control, and her cooperative stance towards president Trump.


Postcast of the Week: The Bijlmer, City of the Future

In 1933 the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) took place on the S.S. Patris bound for Athens from Marseilles. While soaking up the Mediterranean sun, the architects drafted the ‘Athens Charter’, which contained their vision for the city of the future. Thirty years later, the city planners of Amsterdam took on their ideas to create the Bijlmermeer.

Locally known as the ‘Bijlmer’, the complex is about a half-hour bike ride from the city center, and is truly a realisation of the Amsterdam in concrete. The architects deliberated over every aspect of modern ways of living. However, the white middle class, the intended audience, did not want to leave the crowded and unstructured heart of Amsterdam. As a result, many of the 31 concrete towers remained empty until new arrivals, especially from Suriname, moved in.

In this two-episode ‘City of the Future’ special, 99% invisible host Roman Mars tells the story of the Bijlmer: he talks of the dream, the many setbacks during construction, the multiculturalism, the catastrophe that struck in the form of an airplane crashing into one of the towers, the subsequent reconstruction, and the future. The Bijlmer is clearly not what its planners envisioned. In fact it’s still evolving.


See here the trailer of the film “Architects’ Congress“ by László Moholy-Nagy about the CIAM 1933 sailing from Athens to Marseille.


The Bijlmermeer

Podcast ‘EXPERIMENT’ by Stories from the Eastern West

Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic: the countries that lie to the east of Germany and Austria don’t feature much in European discourse – except for the odd head-shake over the latest populist or nationalist tendencies. Stories from the Eastern West (SFTEW) delves beyond the familiar narrative and tells the “hidden history” of these places.

The episode ‘EXPERIMENT’ recalls the story of how the first studio producing experimental electronic music was founded in Poland in 1957 – in a climate dominated by authorities hostile towards new, and especially Western forms of cultural expression. Jazz music, for example, was banned. But Eugeniusz Rudnik manoeuvred through the political obstacles to achieve his dream: to make the Polish Experimental Radio Studio a place for the creation of unheard sounds and recordings.


Podcast of the Week: Reggaeton In The Age of #MeToo

This week Alt.Latino, NPR’s program about Latin Alternative music and Latino culture, discusses the controversial aspects of Reggeaton, a genre often criticized for its highly sexualized portrayal and use of women. In the context of #MeToo and #TimesUp, the topic got attention once again after the recent Grammy performance of ‘Despacito’ by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, had many scantily clad women shaking their butts around the two male singers.

Alt.Latino host Felix Contreras and his two guests, the scholars of Latin American culture Petra Rivera Rideau and Omaris Zamora, take both an academic and a personal look at the issue. They are neither out to defend, nor to condemn Reggeaton. Rather they are trying to understand why the music sounds as it does, and the various perspectives from which it can be interpreted, without propagating one truth.

A new arrival on the podcast scene: The Europeans

The Europeans is a new arrival on the podcast scene, discussing politics, culture and any given topic in a both entertaining and well-informed manner. The weekly show is hosted by two friends: Katy Lee, a reporter in Paris, and Dominic Kraemer, an opera singer in Amsterdam. After the listener is greeted by catchy remix of the Anthem of Europe, Katy and Dominic take us on a tour of the recent events beyond breaking news and Brexit.

What makes their podcast special is that each feature includes an interview with someone on site: we listen to them converse with a Polish-Canadian journalist on Poland’s new Holocaust law, speak to an in-house IKEA designer on the legacy of the late IKEA founder Kamprad, or ask an Austrian dancing teacher about the Viennese ball season.

Those longing to hear some new voices should be excited for Tuesday, when their next episode will be released!


More information about Katy, Dominic and their podcast is available on their website.



Podcast of the week: Our post-work future

Work as we know it won’t persist. The system is imploding: people are short of income, time, and satisfaction, productivity is stagnating, and automatization will make much of human work redundant anyway.

Such statements are often followed by nods of approval, a short silence, and a subsequent switch of topic. Work is for most an essential part of life, giving structure and purpose, making it hard to imagine how it could ever change.

In this week’s episode of ‘The Guardian’s Audio Long Read’ – spoken versions of in-depth essays – journalist Andy Beckett explores the possibilities of the post-work future. This podcast asks to be listened to attentively: in little more than half an hour, Beckett tours past the main questions, visions and controversies. From here the conversation can begin.


By Isabel Seeger



A timeless podcast series: A History of the World in 100 Objects

The ice age carving of swimming reindeers, the Olmec stone mask, the Hebrew astrolabe, or the North American buckskin map. All of these are objects of undoubted historical significance, but it’s difficult for most people to get excited about them.

Enter Neil McGregor, former Director of the British Museum, who takes us for a walk amongst the vitrines as he tells us stories filled with wit and curiosity.

In each of the one-hundred short episodes, an object is chosen and placed in its time: who made it? How did its maker see the world? Why was it revolutionary? The series is a journey, covering 2 billion years and stretching the globe, in which the listener comes to understand how humans became what we are today.


Photographs of all objects can be seen on the BBC website. 

By Isabel Seeger