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. 

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.


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