Show cover of Then & Now

Then & Now

Then & Now connects past to present, using historical analysis and context to help guide us through modern issues and policy decisions. Then & Now is brought to you by the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy. Then & Now is produced by David Myers and Roselyn Campbell, and features original music by Daniel Raijman.


Answering Your Questions About Gaza: A Dialogue with UCLA Historians
In this episode of then & now, we present the recording of an event held at UCLA on May 13, 2024. This event, sponsored by the UCLA History Department, featured a conversation between UCLA Professors David Myers and James Gelvin about the history and context of the Israel-Hamas war and the situation in Gaza.The brutal attack on Israeli citizens by Hamas on October 7th, 2023, shocked the world. In the 7 months since that event, the Israeli military has bombarded Gaza, killing upwards of 35,000 Palestinians and injurin some 80,000 more in what is said to be an attempt to eradicate Hamas and retrieve the hostages remaining in Hamas’s hands. In recent weeks, the war has received renewed attention in the United States due to clashes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups on college campuses, confrontations that have sometimes been exacerbated by extreme police responses. Professor Myers and Gelvin explore questions about why Hamas perpetrated their horrific attack on Israeli citizens on October 7th, why Benjamin Netanyahu has responded with months of bombardments, and where the United States features in this equation. What led to this months-long war, and what does the future hold for Palestinians and Israelis?Professor David Myers is a Distinguished Professor and Sady and Ludwig Kahn Chair in Jewish History at UCLA. He has published multiple books on Jewish intellectual and cultural history, and has written several op-eds calling for an end to the war in Gaza and return of the Israeli hostages.  Professor James Gelvin is a Professor of Modern Middle East History here at UCLA. He has published extensively on the social and cultural history of the modern Middle East, and his book titled “Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War” has been revised and updated several times, most recently in 2021. 
84:40 5/15/24
Free Speech and Academic Freedom in the University: A Conversation with Michael Meranze
As the war in Gaza rages on, discussions surrounding free speech and the right to protest have surged across the United States, particularly on college campuses. When a pro-Palestine encampment at Columbia University was raided by police, leading to dozens of arrests in late April 2024, university students around the country set up their own protests and encampments, urging for an end to the war and divestment of university funding from Israel. Join us on this week's episode of then & now podcast as we delve into the history and evolution of academic free speech with UCLA History Professor Michael Meranze. Professor Meranze explores the changing landscape of free speech on campus, the evolving role of faculty in fostering open discourse, and the profound impact of social media on freedom of expression, and considers how the events of October 7th, 2023, have reshaped higher education in the United States. Professor Michael Meranze is a professor of History at UCLA, where he specializes in United States intellectual and legal history with an emphasis on early America. He published Laboratories of Virtue, an examination of the birth of the penitentiary in the context of the contradictions of the American Revolution and early Liberalism, and is currently working on two long-term projects: one, an analysis of sensibility and violence in the Revolutionary Atlantic and the other an attempt to rethink the history and meaning of the American death penalty from the eighteenth-century to the present.
50:55 5/1/24
Why History Matters: Gun Violence
Gun violence has become deeply ingrained in the historical fabric of the United States, intertwined with the principles outlined in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which grants individuals the right to keep and bear arms. This amendment is frequently invoked in debates surrounding the implementation of stricter gun control measures.In this week's episode, then & now presents a compelling discussion hosted by the Department of History at UCLA under the Why History Matters series, focusing on the historical trajectory of America's relationship with firearms. Panelists Brian DeLay, Adam Winkler, and Jennifer Wagman provide nuanced insights into various facets of gun culture in America.The conversation delves into the evolution of gun legislation, tracing its origins back to the founding era and drawing parallels with contemporary times. The discussion also addresses the challenges of interpreting laws formulated in a different historical context and their application in the present day, alongside the often overlooked public health implications of gun violence.Moreover, the episode examines the repercussions of lenient gun laws in the United States on neighboring nations, as well as the country's role as a major arms exporter. Each speaker brings their unique expertise, providing a comprehensive overview of this complex and multifaceted issue.
65:02 4/17/24
Free Speech, Cancel Culture, and Safe Spaces: A Conversation with David Cole
In the wake of the events of October 7th in Israel and the swift reaction by the Israeli government against Hamas, student protests have erupted on campuses around the United States, igniting fervent discussions about free speech, the First Amendment, and safe spaces. This week on then & now, we are joined by David Cole, the National Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union and the George Mitchell Professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Dr. Cole offers profound insights into the history of government intervention in matters concerning freedom of speech, shedding light on its implications for academia.Dr. Cole also discusses the crucial role of freedom of speech in academic settings, where ideas should be freely exchanged and challenged. He casts a critical eye on cancel culture, a phenomenon in which dissenting views are swiftly silenced; by contrast, he emphasizes the importance of fostering a culture of tolerance and open dialogue. Finally, we discuss Title IX practices,  providing clarity on what constitutes a Title IX violation and navigating the complexities of distinguishing between protected speech and harassment, particularly in the context of university campuses.Dr. David Cole is the National Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union and the George Mitchell Professor at Georgetown University Law Center. In his role as National Legal Director, he manages more than 200 ACLU staff attorneys and support staff in the National office, oversees the ACLU’s U.S. Supreme Court docket, and provides leadership to 400 more legal staff who work in ACLU affiliate offices in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. Dr. Cole has received two honorary degrees and many awards for his civil liberties and human rights work, including the inaugural Norman Dorsen Presidential Prize from the ACLU, awarded to an academic for lifetime commitment to civil liberties.
53:42 4/3/24
Deadly Borders: A Conversation on Immigration with Dr. Jason de León
As the U.S. primary elections unfold, the issue of border security, particularly along the US-Mexico border, has taken center stage. Concerns about the number of people crossing the U.S. southern border illegally have prompted extreme and sometimes fatal measures by U.S. officials to curb the flow of migrants. How effective are these measures at slowing illegal immigration, and what is the cost for those trying to enter the U.S.? In this week’s podcast, we sit down with Dr. Jason de León, professor of Anthropology and Chicano Studies at UCLA and the director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, to discuss the effects of various immigration policies.Dr. de  León sheds light on the methods that have been employed since at least the 1990s to deter border crossing, such as the Prevention through Deterrence policy, highlighting the conditions faced by those who cross the border and the potentially fatal outcomes. Challenging the perception of migration as a localized issue, Dr. de  León argues that migration is a multifaceted phenomenon with global implications. He advocates for humane policies that address the root causes of migration, such as poverty and political turmoil, rather than relying on border enforcement policies that actively and often purposely cause harm and even death.Dr. de  León is the Executive Director of the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP),  professor of Anthropology and Chicano Studies at UCLA, and the Director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. Dr de León earned his bachelor’s at UCLA, and his PhD at Penn State University. He was named a MacArthur Foundation fellow in 2017. His first book “The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail”, was published in 2015 by the University of California Press, and his second book, “Soldiers and Kings: Survival and Hope in the World of Human Smuggling”, was published by Viking Press in March 2024.  
42:34 3/20/24
Challenges and Opportunities in the New Age of AI: A Long-Term View with John Villasenor
As advances in technology continue to shape our world, understanding the implications of artificial intelligence (AI), cyber security, and digital privacy has never been more important. In this episode of then & now, we delve into the crucial intersection of technology, law, and policy with John Villasenor, a distinguished professor at UCLA and co-director of the UCLA Institute for Technology, Law and Policy. Villasenor's expertise provides a fascinating glimpse into the history of technology and how it has rapidly evolved over the years. From the pioneering work of Alan Turing to the current landscape of AI, Villasenor offers valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities presented by these advancements. Join us as we explore the impact of technology on society and the changing landscape of technology law and consider: can we regulate AI? Should we? John Villasenor is Professor of Engineering, Law, and Public Policy and Management at  UCLA, where he co-directs the UCLA Institute for Technology, Law and Policy. He is a leading voice in the discussion surrounding the ethical implications of technology and the importance of thoughtful regulation in the tech industry.
32:09 3/6/24
The Nuclear Threat Today: A Conversation with Albert Carnesale
While the conflicts between Israel and Palestine and Russia and Ukraine are center-stage, the threat of nuclear weapons hovers ominously over our world. The recent release of the popular movie "Oppenheimer" reminds us of the extraordinary potency of nuclear weapons. Russia's aggression in Ukraine has raised concerns about its nuclear intentions, while China, under President Xi Jinping, seeks to bolster its nuclear capabilities to match those of the US. Iran's nuclear ambitions persist, and there are predictions that North Korea may be adopting a more aggressive stance which includes nuclear weapons. As these nations either expand or maintain their nuclear capabilities, global nuclear tensions rise.  In this episode of Then & Now, we engage in a conversation with Chancellor Albert Carnesale, a distinguished academic and expert in nuclear engineering and arms control, who served as chancellor of UCLA and provost of Harvard University. Chancellor Carnesale provides valuable insights into past efforts to mitigate nuclear threats. He also discusses current strategies to ensure global security from nuclear dangers, drawing from his involvement in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks/Treaty (SALT) and his knowledge of China, North Korea, and Iran's nuclear histories. Albert Carnesale, distinguished scholar and nuclear arms expert, is a prominent figure in academia and international security. With an extensive academic career spanning decades, Carnesale has contributed significantly to our understanding of nuclear proliferation, arms control negotiations, and nonproliferation strategies. As a professor at UCLA's Engineering and Public Affairs School, his research and teachings delve deep into the complexities of global security, shaping the discourse on nuclear policy and international relations.His expertise and insights have not only informed policymakers but also inspired generations of students to engage critically with the pressing challenges of our time.
53:18 2/21/24
Is California an Outlier? Health Care Policy in the Sunshine State: A Conversation with Historian Ben Zdencanovic
One of the most vexing social problems in U.S. society is our country’s healthcare system, which is wracked by rising costs, inequitable access, and manifold inefficiencies.  Unlike Canada or a number of European countries, the United States has never adopted a single-payer system in which the government provides health insurance to all.  Instead, it has favored a range of private options alongside supplemental government programs.  As a result of its size and significance, the state of California has been a laboratory for government healthcare policy, with public officials and advocates testing the virtues of various private and public healthcare programs.  In a forthcoming report for the Luskin Center, Dr. Ben Zdencanovic, along with Sara Ohannessian, Lauren Heiberg, Emiko Levings, and Emilila Fergadiotti, examine the history of healthcare policy in California, with a particular focus on Medi-Cal, the state-sponsored insurance plan introduced in 1965.  In this episode of “Then & Now,” we sit down to talk to Dr. Ben Zdencanovic about the findings of this team.   Dr. Ben Zdencanovic is a Postdoctoral Associate at the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy. He is an historian of the United States in the world, domestic and international politics, and economic and social policy. He has a particular interest in the relationship between U.S. global power and the politics of redistribution and welfare state. His forthcoming book from Princeton University Press is titled Island of Enterprise: The End of the New Deal and the Rise of U.S. Global Power in a World of Welfare, 1940 – 1955.  
49:59 1/24/24
Israel, Gaza, and the U.S.: A Conversation with Aaron David Miller
On this episode of then & now, Middle East expert Aaron David Miller offers his perspective on the current state of affairs in Israel and Gaza after October 7, 2023 — and on the broader historical context of the explosion of violence in recent months.  Drawing on his decades of service in the U.S. State Department, he also traces the arc of American diplomacy on the Israel-Palestine question, noting the many failures and limited successes in this story. Miller reflects on the importance of balance and strong leadership, qualities that have often been in short supply in efforts to resolve or mitigate tensions between Palestinians and Israelis.   Aaron David Miller is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, focusing on U.S. foreign policy. He received his PhD in Middle East and U.S. diplomatic history from the University of Michigan in 1977 and has authored five books including The Much Too Promised Land: America’s Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace (2008).  Miller is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a frequent commentator in print and visual media.  
66:58 1/10/24
America On Strike: Labor Takes Center Stage
In our final episode of 2023, we are sharing a recording of an event hosted by the UCLA History Department as part of the Why History Matters series. Labor movements have surged to the attention of the public over the past year, with the historic Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA strikes at the beginning of the year as well as the United Auto Workers strike later in the year. Moderated by UCLA Professor of History and Labor Studies Toby Higbie, this event featured a panel discussion with Kent Wong (Director of the UCLA Labor Center), Susan Minato (Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11), and Billy Ray (Screenwriter and Director, and former co-chair of the WGA Negotiating Committee) about the history of labor movements, the power of unions and strikes in America today, and what lies ahead.
62:57 12/6/23
Understanding the Israel-Gaza Conflict: Causes, Conduct, and Consequences
For this special episode, we are sharing a recording of a Zoom event hosted on November 21 by the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy. Featuring two UCLA history professors, Dr. James L. Gelvin and Dr. David N. Myers, this informational session explores the historical background to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, addressing questions such as:What is Hamas?What led to Hamas' attack on Israel?Why was Israel so ill-prepared?What does the future hold for Israel and Palestine, and for the wider region?Dr. L. Gelvin is a professor of history at UCLA. He is the author of numerous books and articles on Middle Eastern history and contemporary issues, including The Israel-Palestine Conflict: A History, recently updated and released as a fourth edition by Cambridge University Press.Dr. David N. Myers is a professor of history at UCLA and the director of the Luskin Center for History and Policy. He is the author and editor of numerous books in the field of modern Jewish history including Between Arab and Jew: The Los Voice of Simon Rawidowicz, published by Brandeis University Press in 2009.
38:59 11/22/23
The Enduring Power of Non-Violence: A Conversation with Rev. James Lawson
This episode of then & now  features a conversation with the Reverend James Lawson, the legendary social justice activist who introduced the practice of non-violent action to the civil rights movement.  The conversation takes up Rev. Lawson’s early years and encounters with racism in Massillon, Ohio; his exposure to the idea of non-violence through his reading of Gandhi and while on mission in India; his tireless efforts to promote non-violence in the United States; and his thoughts about how the practice of non-violence can be spread throughout a world convulsed by violence.  At age ninety-five, Rev. Lawson continues to advocate for the relevance of non-violence with a rare mix of wisdom and humility.   Rev. James Lawson, Jr. has been one of the most influential and inspirational faith leaders in Los Angeles—and the United States at large—over the past seven decades. After studying, teaching, and serving as a pastor in Tennessee, he arrived in Los Angeles in 1974 to assume the position of pastor at the Holman United Methodist Church.  From that platform, Rev. Lawson immersed himself in many of the major struggles for justice in the city and nation including civil rights, workers’ rights, immigrant rights, and the cause of peace the world over.  He is the recipient of many honors and awards recognizing him as one of the great civil rights leaders of our time.  In 2021, the UCLA Labor Center was renamed the "UCLA James M. Lawson Worker Justice Center."  
52:42 11/8/23
Unions, Labor, and the American Working Class: A Conversation with Nelson Lichtenstein
On September 15, 2023, workers from the United Auto Workers union went on strike at Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Stellantis simultaneously, quickly expanding to include tens of thousands of workers at automobile factories throughout the United States. Founded by visionary and then UAW president Walter Reuther, At its founding, the union focused on better wages and conditions for all working-class Americans, not just union members. Current UAW president Shawn Fain has channeled much of founding UAW president Walter Reuther’s rhetoric in championing benefits for all workers and pushing for government support of electric car manufacturing jobs. In what has been a historic year for unions and labor movements throughout the United States, we sit down with Dr. Nelson Lichtenstein to discuss the history of the UAW and what this strike means for the American working class. What does this strike reveal about current relations between the working and elite classes, and how will the UAW strike and demands play into political and labor discourse in the coming years? Nelson Lichtenstein is a Research Professor in the Department of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he also serves as the director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy.  He is the author of numerous books, including “State of the Union: A Century of American Labor” (published in 2002 and revised in 2013). His most recent book, “A Fabulous Failure: The Clinton Presidency and the Transformation of American Capitalism” which he co-authored with the late Judith Stein, was published in 2023 by Princeton University Press.
45:53 10/25/23
Urban Spaces Past and Present: A Conversation with Monica Smith
More than half the world’s population currently lives in cities, and current estimates suggest that by 2050 nearly 7 out of every 10 people will live in urban spaces. In an increasingly crowded and urbanized world, space has become a precious commodity. As a species, we seem drawn to cities, despite their obvious disadvantages. From the ancient cities of Southeast Asia to the crowded streets of modern Los Angeles, cities offer opportunities for interactions that wouldn’t be possible in urban areas. In this episode, we sit down with Professor Monica Smith, who shares her perspective on the importance of infrastructure and shared spaces in the birth and survival of cities past and present. How do cities affect the way that we interact with the natural environment and with our fellow human beings, and how can we think creatively about shared spaces in crowded urban environments? Dr. Monica L. Smith is a professor and Navin and Pratima Doshi Chair in Indian Studies at UCLA. She is an ancient economic historian who uses archaeological data to analyze the collective effects of routine activities through the study of food, ordinary goods, and architecture. Her current research focuses on the Indian subcontinent, a region that has produced some of the world’s earliest and most long-lived urban areas. Her most recent book was published by Viking Press in 2019, and is titled “Cities: The First 6000 Years.”
39:10 10/11/23
What is Going on in Nagorno-Karabakh? A Conversation with Historian Sebouh Aslanian
Reports have emerged in recent weeks that a grave humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Nagorno-Karabakh, a contested region in present-day Azerbaijan that contains a large majority of Armenian residents. A prominent international lawyer, Luis Moreno Ocampo, in fact, maintains that “a Genocide is being committed” by Azerbaijani forces against Armenian residents. This episode of “Then & Now” features UCLA historian Sebouh Aslanian, who offers a rich account of the history of the region and the century-long conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. He situates the tension against the backdrop of the rise and fall of empire—and analyzes the two wars that have engulfed the contested region since 1988 and that have led to the current dire crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh.  Sebouh Aslanian is professor of history and holds the Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair of Modern Armenian History at the UCLA History Department, and is the inaugural director of the Armenian Studies Center at the Promise Armenian Institute.  He is an acknowledged expert in world history, Armenian history, Indian Ocean history, and early modern social and economic history. He is the author of the award-winning  From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean: The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), and has published widely on early modern world and Armenian history, including his most recent book, Early Modernity and Mobility Port Cities and Printers across the Armenian Diaspora, 1512-1800 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2023).  
44:52 9/27/23
The Long Roots of Israel's Democracy Crisis: A Conversation with Michael Sfard
As we transition to our fourth season of "Then & Now", this episode features renowned Israeli human rights lawyer, Michael Sfard.  He offers an analysis of Israel's current crisis of democracy, including the attacks on the judicial system and Supreme Court, and a wide contextual frame that extends back to 1948 and to the founding document of the state of Israel, its Declaration of Independence.  The conversation then moves to Sfard's detailed argument that Israel's control of the West Bank amounts to a legal regime of apartheid.  We also discuss how Sfard understands and contends with criticism of the project of human rights as an instrument of Western colonialism.  Finally, the episode concludes with a discussion of Sfard's grandfather, the Polish-born sociologist Zygumt Bauman, and the ways in which he left an imprint on his grandson. MIchael Sfard is one of Israel's leading human rights lawyers who has frequently represented Palestinian clients at the Israeli Supreme Court.  He is the author of the 2018 book The Wall and the Gate: Israel, Palestine, and the Legal Battle for Human Rights. He also wrote a legal opinion addressing Israel's control of the West Bank for the NGO Yesh Din, "The Occupation of the West Bank and the Crime of Apartheid." 
51:26 9/13/23
Fighting Crimes against the Environment: A Conversation about “Ecocide” with Kate Mackintosh
Following the recent destruction of the Kakhovka dam in the south of the country, the government of Ukraine accused Russia of the crime of “ecocide.”  This term first surfaced in the 1970s in the context of the U.S. military’s use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.  Since that time, the term has gained currency in international legal circles as a tool to fight against large-scale violations of the environment.  A number of states have already incorporated the concept into their legal codes, and efforts are ongoing to enshrine “ecocide” in international law.This episode of then & now features Kate Mackintosh, veteran human rights activist, international lawyer, and front-line participant in the efforts to define and promote “ecocide.”  She discusses the historical roots of the concept, its place within the international legal order, and current efforts to advance this legal tool to forestall further damage to the global environment.  The conversation also turns to the question of how effective such a tool of punishment can be in the world today.  Kate Mackintosh served as the inaugural executive director of the Promise Institute for Human Rights at the UCLA School of Law.  She now serves as executive director of the Promise Institute for Human Rights in Europe. 
42:33 8/30/23
From Diversity to Reparation: A Conversation about Race, Higher Education, and the Aftermath of the Affirmative Action Decision with Eddie Cole
On June 29, 2023, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to end affirmative action for college admissions, stating that considering race as a factor was unconstitutional, while preserving ‘legacy’ admissions which often allow students of alumni entrance to prestigious institutions. Yet from the establishment of the first university in the United States, race has been a consistent organizing principle in American higher education. In this episode, we sit down with UCLA historian Eddie Cole to discuss how the origins of affirmative action in the 1960s aimed to rectify a legacy of systemic racism in the United States. In later decades, the discourse around affirmative action shifted from restitution and reparation to admissions and diversity more broadly.  Now that the Supreme Court has struck down affirmative action, what are the repercussions for Black students? And how will the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action affect the generations to come?  Should the conversation shift from the need for diversity to a renewed call for reparations? Dr. Eddie R. Cole is Associate Professor of Education and History at UCLA. Dr. Cole’s research explores leadership, race, and social movements through the prism of higher education, addressing power and systems of power as well as education’s impact on society. His award-winning book, The Campus Color Line: College Presidents and the Struggle for Black Freedom was published by Princeton University Press in 2020.
36:43 8/16/23
The Case for Open Access: A Conversation with Peter Baldwin
In this episode, historian Peter Baldwin makes the case for open access.  He surveys the history of knowledge production and transmission from the Gutenberg Bible, which opened up access in unprecedented ways.  Open access today, he argues, is not a novelty but continuous with earlier developments in which artists and thinkers were "workers for hire," who were compensated for their creative and scholarly labor. In the same vein, university professors are paid to produce scholarship which, Baldwin argues, should incline them to accept open access.  The conversation takes up the fate of copyright, ownership of ideas, and the core notion of authorship, all the more important to consider in the age of AI. Peter Baldwin is an Emeritus Professor of History at UCLA. His previous books have focused on comparative histories of Europe and America as well as the history of copyright law. Dr. Baldwin’s most recent book, Athena Unbound: Why and How Scholarly Knowledge Should be Free for All, was published by MIT Press in March 2023 as an open-access volume.
41:36 8/2/23
The Politics of Reproductive Rights: A Conversation with Elizabeth O'Brien
Women's reproductive rights have been a contentious issue over the past few years in the United States. Both federal and state measures have been introduced that restrict women’s ability to make decisions about their bodies and reproduction, culminating last year with the Supreme Court’s reversal of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Though the US has been a public battleground for women’s reproductive rights in recent years, the debate about women’s right to bodily autonomy is neither unique nor new. In this context, what might comparative histories of reproductive politics beyond the US tell us about the state of reproductive rights today? And what is the role of religion in laws and policies related to reproductive rights? In this episode of Then & Now, medical historian Dr. Elizabeth O’Brien offers a deep history of how colonial and religious powers shaped women's reproductive choices in Mexico from the 18th to 20th centuries, and explores how historical attitudes towards women’s bodies and gender roles are relevant to understanding reproductive rights in the 21st century United States. ***Elizabeth O’Brien is currently the Assistant Professor of the History of Medicine at the Department of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She will be joining UCLA’s Department of History in Fall 2023. Her book Surgery and Salvation: Religion, Racial Medicine, and Reproductive Politics in Mexico, 1745-1940 will be released by UNC Press in late 2023.
56:16 6/28/23
Zev's Los Angeles: A Conversation with Zev Yaroslavsky about his New Memoir (Part II)
In part two of our conversation with Zev Yaroslavsky, one of Los Angeles's best-known public officials, we continue our conversation on his recently released memoir and his reflections from his long career in politics. In this episode, Zev talks about the history of race relations in LA, the growing crisis of its unhoused population, and the importance of taking political risks. Zev also recalls his involvement in the struggle on behalf of low-wage workers and his passion for civil rights and the First Amendment.
44:59 6/14/23
Zev's Los Angeles: A Conversation with Zev Yaroslavsky about his New Memoir (Part I)
In the first of a two-part conversation, "Then & Now" sits down with Zev Yaroslavsky, one of LA's best-known public officials, to talk about his fascinating life and forty-year career in politics.  Yaroslavsky has just released a memoir entitled Zev's Los Angeles that traces his rise from a Jewish immigrant family in Boyle Heights and Fairfax to his stunning election to City Council at age 26 in 1975.  In this conversation, Zev recounts his quick path to political power in LA, his move after twenty years from City Council to the County Board of Supervisors, and some of the key policy issues he advanced in his time in office.  With characteristic candor and humor, Yaroslavsky also discusses the challenges of governance in Los Angeles.  
45:04 6/7/23
The Life and Times of J. Edgar Hoover: A Conversation with Beverly Gage
 As the director of the FBI for nearly half a century, John Edgar Hoover was the chief architect of the American security apparatus during a large chunk of the 20th century. A recognizable figure in popular memory, Hoover is also remembered for his fierce campaigns against Communism and his antipathy to civil liberties, which led to egregious abuses of power. In many ways, his career symbolized the dramatic rise of the security state in post-New Deal America.What does J. Edgar Hoover’s life reveal to us about the evolution of federal power? How does his story revise our view of conservatism in 20th-century America? And what might his tenure tell us about our own times as the FBI increasingly comes in the crosshairs of partisan politics? In this episode, our host Ben Zdencanovic sits down with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Beverly Gage to discuss these questions. Beverly Gage is the John Lewis Gaddis Professor of History at Yale University. Her book G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century, a biography of former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, received the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, the Bancroft Prize in American History, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, among other prizes. Professor Gage has also authored The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in its First Age of Terror.  She writes for numerous journals and magazines, including The New Yorker, New York Times, and Washington Post.  
31:10 5/31/23
What Can We Learn from History? A Conversation on Israel and America, Past and Present, with Yael Sternhell
The United States and Israel have both been roiled by major democratic crises in recent years. Many observers attribute these crises to the Trump presidency and the recent plan by the Netanyahu government to undertake a major overhaul of the judiciary.  But their roots may well extend back further. Can we learn from the histories of these two countries in understanding the present?  Does the story of slavery and anti-Black racism in the U.S., on one hand, and the displacement and occupation of Palestinians, on the other, help explain where we are today?  Tel Aviv-based historian of the United States, Dr. Yael Sternhell, provides compelling responses to these challenging questions. While obvious differences exist between the two societies, she notes that there are also important similarities between them, including the prevalence of supremacist ideologies in both.  Drawing on her long-standing interest in human movement, Sternhell reflects on the American and Israeli past, as well as the current crises of democracy in both places.  History, she concludes, offers in its own way a measure of hope for the future. Dr. Yael Sternhell is Associate Professor of History and American Studies at Tel Aviv University, and is a scholar of the American Civil War and the social history of archives. Her first book, Routes of War: The World of Movement in the Confederate South, is an interpretation of the Civil War in the South as an experience of physical mobility and the many different ways through which mobility figured in the social, cultural, and political processes that shaped the war. 
29:20 5/17/23
The Global Debt Crisis and the Neoliberal Economy: A Conversation with Ahilan Kadirgamar and Jamie Martin
In the decade since the global financial crisis of 2007-8, a number of countries have faced and succumbed to sovereign-debt crises and declared bankruptcy. After Greece, Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, Zambia, and Lebanon, Sri Lanka has recently joined the ranks of countries felled by economic downturn, whose harsh impact will be felt by its people for a long time to come. In this context, the question arises: what role have international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank played in these economic crises?  Have they helped or hurt the economic prospects of the Global South? To discuss this question, we are joined by Ahilan Kadirgamar, a political economist from the University of Jaffna in Sri Lanka, and Jamie Martin, a historian at Harvard University and the author of The Meddlers: Sovereignty, Empire, and the Birth of Global Economic Governance.
38:12 5/3/23
The Past and Future of the Humanities? A Conversation with Katherine Fleming
In the wake of the pandemic and persistent underfunding, cultural and educational institutions in the United States today are increasingly confronted with an uncertain fate. How can they sustain growth, enfranchise new audiences, and increase diversity at a time when “the death of the humanities” looms on the horizon?In this episode of Then & Now, Katherine E. Fleming, the president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, brings her rich experiences as historian, academic administrator, and now chief executive of a major philanthropic foundation to make sense of the problems faced by higher education and cultural institutions in the United States. Dr. Fleming talks about her academic trajectory, the paradoxical finances of American universities, and what her plans are for the Getty.
45:17 4/19/23
From Resistance to Representation in Transnational Hip-Hop: A Conversation with Samuel Lamontagne
Hip-hop culture and rap music are often assumed to be quintessentially American art forms. But by the late 1970s, hip-hop had transcended its roots in the US coasts. In France, artists from the African diaspora experimented with hip-hop, using it as an art form to articulate Blackness at a time when their community had little visibility in public life. Hip-hop became a critical tool for crafting Black visions of representation and resistance. This intersection of music, culture and politics—ranging from Paris to Los Angeles—is the focus of this episode, which features Dr. Samuel Lamontagne, a scholar of hip-hop and electronic music. Dr. Lamontagne combines his extensive research and personal experience to explain the rich landscape of global hip-hop, and how music became a crossroads for the meeting of transnational Black politics and aesthetics. Samuel Lamontagne is a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow with the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies and the Department of History at UCLA. His research focuses on hip-hop and electronic dance music in Los Angeles, and in the African diaspora more generally. A former co-editor-in-chief of Ethnomusicology Review, he has also authored a book on electronic music.
39:09 4/5/23
Re-examining US Foreign Policy: Can There Be an Alternative to Imperialism?
The legitimacy of a US-led global order has been taken for granted by many in political, diplomatic and intellectual circles in the United States and even beyond. Yet this narrative of a postwar liberal order sits uncomfortably with a long history of imperial expansion and settler-colonial practices that the US has pursued over the centuries. Host Ben Zdencanovic sits down with Aziz Rana, a scholar of US constitutionalism, race, and empire at Cornell Law School, to discuss the politics of racial and cultural hierarchy that have been integral to American engagement with the world. From the days of frontier expansion and Wilsonian internationalism to the postwar push for modernization and a ‘rules-based-order’, arguments for American primacy have been deeply informed by ideas and practices of supremacy.  How has America’s imperial stance abroad impacted its domestic politics? Is there any prospect of forging an inclusive and progressive American foreign policy? And why must a politics of anti-imperialism require an equally strong commitment to anti-authoritarianism as well? These are the questions that guide this conversation between two scholars of the US in the world.
41:20 3/22/23
Authoritarianism and Patriarchy from Ancient Egypt to the Present: A Conversation with Kara Cooney
Recent years have witnessed a stark rise across the globe in populist leaders whose policies are implicitly, or even explicitly, authoritarian. The policies of these leaders are sometimes at odds with their populist rhetoric in that they reward the elite few at the expense of the masses. Yet this trend is not new. As far back as ancient Egypt, we see authoritarian leaders collecting and retaining wealth and power in the hands of the elite. What are the parallels between the authoritarian governments of the past and the present? How can we use the past to cast a critical eye on our own social patterns and willingness to hand over power to the few? This episode of Then & Now explores how and why authoritarian, populist leaders, from ancient Egypt, to the present, gain and maintain power, and seeks to understand why the many so often choose to give up power to the few. 
46:58 3/8/23
China-US Relations in the Age of the Indo-Pacific: A Conversation with Rosemary Foot
China-US relations have again drawn global attention after a Chinese high-altitude balloon, suspected of carrying surveillance equipment, was shot down off the Carolina coast by the United States military. Beyond concerns about espionage and national security, this incident captured the US government’s larger anxieties about China’s growing influence in international affairs, and its threat to long-standing American hegemony in transnational governance. On the economic front, as the US-led economic system faces ongoing criticism, particularly since the 2008 financial crisis, the ‘Chinese model’ has emerged as a serious competitor. Another important development is China’s effort to redefine sovereign states — rather than international institutions — as the best guarantor of human rights. In the first episode of this new occasional series looking at the past, present, and future of the US-led international order, our host Ben Zdencanovic is joined by the scholar of international relations Rosemary Foot. The two discuss the recent history of China-US relations, why China sees the Indo-Pacific bloc as the new NATO, and how the country seeks to reshape the norms dictating diplomacy and development. Rosemary Foot is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations and a Research Associate at the Oxford China Centre. Her research interests and publications cover China-US relations, human-rights diplomacy, and Asian regional institutions. An Emeritus Fellow at St Antony’s College, she is the author of, most recently, China, the UN, and Human Protection: Beliefs, Power, Image (Oxford University Press, 2020). 
31:10 2/23/23

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