109 episodes

High Theory is a produced and edited by Kim Adams and Saronik Bosu, two tired academics trying to save critique from itself, along with two amazing collaborators, Júlia Irion Martins and Nathan Kim. In this podcast, we get high on the substance of theory, and we try to explain difficult ideas from the academy with irreverence. You can learn more about us on our website, or find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

High Theory High Theory

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0 • 19 Ratings

High Theory is a produced and edited by Kim Adams and Saronik Bosu, two tired academics trying to save critique from itself, along with two amazing collaborators, Júlia Irion Martins and Nathan Kim. In this podcast, we get high on the substance of theory, and we try to explain difficult ideas from the academy with irreverence. You can learn more about us on our website, or find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

    Queer Space

    Queer Space

    In this episode of High Theory, Jack Jen Gieseking tells us about queer space. Queer geographies matter alongside queer temporalities. And it turns out that lesbian life in the 1950s cannot be generalized from the specific history of Buffalo, New York.
    In the episode they reference a number of scholarly books including J. Jack Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (NYU Press, 2005); Elizabeth Freeman, Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (Duke UP, 2010); Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community (Routledge, 1993); Mairead Sullivan, Lesbian Death: Desire and Danger between Feminist and Queer (Minnesota UP, 2022); Henri Lefebre, The Production of Space (La production de l'espace, Editions Anthropos, 1974, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith, Blackwell, 1919). He also names a number of scholars, including the geographer Gill Valentine, the historian David Harvey, and cultural anthropologist Gayle Rubin, and the 1982 Barnard Conference on Sexuality.
    Jack Jen Gieseking is a Research Fellow at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center. Their book A Queer New York: Geographies of Lesbians, Dykes, and Queers was published by NYU Press in 2020, and has a companion website called An Everyday Queer New York. They are working on a new book called Dyke Bars*: Queer Spaces for the End Times that uses the trans asterisk to invite consideration of queer spaces not historically claimed as dyke bars.
    Image: “Last Lesbian Bars in New York City” © 2023 Saronik Bosu
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    • 17 min
    Near Death Experience

    Near Death Experience

    In this episode of High Theory, Laura Wittman tells us about near death experiences. The central feature of these experiences is a vision and a story, which it turns out are a lot stranger than the “best seller” version. These narrative encounters with death often inspire people to make dramatic moves in search of a more meaningful life, from newfound religious faith or activist commitments to career changes and divorce.
    In the episode, she talks about the changes in what makes a good death, from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries, and how the narratives of near death experiences reflect our desires for older forms of sociality around life’s passing. She references Oliver Sacks’s book Hallucinations (Random House, 2012) in regards to the visions patients experience in hospitals, and their desire for a witness in the moments of lucidity that often occur before death.
    Laura Wittman is an associate professor of French and Italian at Stanford University. She teaches nineteenth and twentieth century literature, and her research focuses on what happens to religious experience in the so-called secular modern age. Her book, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Modern Mourning, and the Reinvention of the Mystical Body (Toronto UP, 2011) has recently been translated into Italian as Il Milite ignoto. Storia e Mito. (LEG, 2021) She also coordinates the Medical Humanities Working Group at the Stanford Humanities Center.
    This week’s image is a photograph of the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier in La Jolla, California, taken by Kim Adams in November 2022. On the top of the pier is a research site for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.
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    • 21 min
    Criticism Amplified: New Media and the Podcast Form

    Criticism Amplified: New Media and the Podcast Form

    This episode is a recording of a short paper presented by Kim and Saronik in the panel “Literary Criticism: New Platforms” organized by Anna Kornbluh at the 2023 Convention of the Modern Language Association. In the paper, they reflect on the nature of the voice in the humanities and the role of the humanities podcast inside and outside institutions.
    Image: © 2023 Saronik Bosu
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    • 12 min
    Ethical AI

    Ethical AI

    In this episode of High Theory, Alex Hanna talks with Nathan Kim about Ethical AI. Their conversation is part of our High Theory in STEM series, which tackles topics in science, technology, engineering, and medicine from a highly theoretical perspective. In this episode, Alex helps us think about the complicated recipes we call “artificial intelligence” and what we mean when we ask our technologies to be ethical.
    In the episode Alex references an article by Emily Tucker, called “Artifice and Intelligence,” (Tech Policy Press, 17 March 2022) which suggests we should stop using terms like “artificial intelligence” and an opinion piece in the Washington Post, on a similar theme, by Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, “We warned Google that people might believe AI was sentient. Now it’s happening” (17 June 2022). She also mentions a claim by Blake Lemoine that Google’s LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) is sentient. We’ll leave that one to your googling, if not your judgment.
    Dr. Alex Hanna is Director of Research at the Distributed AI Research Institute (DAIR). A sociologist by training, her work centers on the data used in new computational technologies, and the ways in which these data exacerbate racial, gender, and class inequality. You can read her recent article, “AI Ethics Are in Danger. Funding Independent Research Could Help,” co-authored with Dylan Baker in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and learn more about her work on her website.
    This week’s image was produced by DALL-E 2 responding to the prompt: "generate the image of an artificial intelligence entity, deciding to protect shareholder interests over public good, in the style of Van Gogh."
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    • 22 min
    Neurasthenia

    Neurasthenia

    In this episode of High Theory, Kim talks with Saronik about neurasthenia. A disease that no longer exists, neurasthenia was a nineteenth century American epidemic of energy depletion. Thinking about this diagnosis can help us understand the social functions of medical knowledge, and how that knowledge changes over time.
    In the episode Kim discusses two nineteenth-century medical texts: American Nervousness: It’s Causes and Consequences (New York: Putnam, 1881) by George Miller Beard, which popularized the diagnosis, and Fat and Blood: And How to Make Them (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1877), by S. Weir Mitchell, which popularized the “rest cure” treatment. She also references three scholarly texts: Tom Lutz’s American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History (Cornell UP, 1992); Carolyn Tomas de la Pena’s The Body Electric: How Strange Machines Built the Modern American (NYU Press, 2003); and Anson Rabinbach’s The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity (UC Press, 1992).
    Kim Adams is one of the co-hosts of High Theory. She works as a postdoctoral fellow at the Pennsylvania State University Humanities Institute, where she is writing a book about electricity and the body in American medicine and literature. She also runs a working group on pain management as a cultural process, called Politics of the Prescription Pad. She lives in Rhode Island and has a very large dog named Tag.
    This week’s image is a 1907 painting titled “On the Southern Plain” by Frederic Remington. The painting shows soldiers on horseback in the American West. Remington was diagnosed with neurasthenia and treated with the “west cure” (discussed in the episode) by S. Weir Mitchell himself.
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    • 18 min
    Off-Shore Aesthetics

    Off-Shore Aesthetics

    Sritama Chatterjee talks about a model of literary criticism that she developed in the process of writing her new essay on shipbreaking in Bangladesh. It is a form of materialist understanding for texts, places, and geographies together, taking into account particular signifiers of a place and looking at correspondent literary responses.
    Sritama is a literary and cultural theorist of the Indian Ocean World, in the Literature program at the Dietrich School of Arts and sciences, University of Pittsburgh. Her dissertation project titled, “Ordinary Environments and Aesthetics in Contemporary Indian Ocean Archipelagic Writing” has been awarded an Andrew Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellowship from her graduate school for outstanding research and scholarly excellence. Her work on the Indian Ocean archipelagos also takes the shape of a collaborative public-facing, community project Delta Lives, which platforms communities in Sundarbans telling their stories. As part of her commitment to rethinking environmental humanities pedagogy, she has edited a cluster on “Water Pedagogies: From the Academy and Beyond” published by NICHE Canada which brings together a set of eleven articles from scholars and activists reflecting on water pedagogy.
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    • 20 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
19 Ratings

19 Ratings

roryandclara ,

So helpful!

I am new to the podcast and already grateful for several things: 1) tight editing means each episode is packed with solid content 2) variety of topics helps orient me to new discussions and fields 3) fun and passionate hosts and guests!

Hippeaux ,

Theory Is Fun

By engaging scholars who are enthusiastic about their favorite concepts, this pod manages to make ideas that might otherwise seem ephemeral and abstract into conversations that are accessible and entertaining. Great premise, well executed.

Christiansico ,

A funny and warm take on theory

Kim and Saronik have created a kind and open podcast that allows the listener, whether they are versed in many of these concepts or not, to understand complex ideas in a fun and digestible format.

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