Refrangible is a podcast from the Center for Design and Material Culture at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
In each episode, we explore the stuff of everyday life and what it tells us about ourselves, our world, and our values. From keepsakes to clutter, from tools to trash, the things we make, use, and save carry stories within them. Tune in for a closer look at the material traces of our past and what they might inspire for our shared future.
Our bodies and the lessons they teach us
Over the past three episodes, we’ve explored the idea of material culture through a series of inanimate objects. For our final episode of season one, we wanted to take a look at something we all use and have a very personal connection with: our bodies.
The fear and uncertainty of the current pandemic forced us to think about our bodies in new ways. Self-care took on a new meaning and personal choices about what to do with your body had an impact on your entire community.
Sewing and the Art of Necessity
Textile creation has long been an art of necessity, as makers mended and created clothing and often used remnants of fabric to make quilts. But gradually, the creation of these textiles has grown from necessity to high art.
This month on Refrangible, the object at the center of our discussion is the sewing machine.
Maypoles and Our Shifting Reality
For many European cultures, the Maypole symbolizes the dawning of spring. It alongside the annual May Day festival, marks the end of winter, a time of cold, darkness and death.
In this episode, we ponder the question: What is our Maypole, and how do we process our eventual emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Home Front
During World War II, through tight control of the media, economy and social messaging -- the U.S. Government was able to instill in the American people a sense of collectivism. Simply put, we were all in it together, and if one of us failed, then we all failed.
But, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, that sense of collective responsibility has seemed to vanish. Even while the coronavirus death count climbed, public health guidance from the federal government was viewed with doubt and skepticism by a large swath of the American public.
So...what happened? Was there ever really a true sense of national collective responsibility or was it just an artificial concept, enforced by the federal government during World War II to ensure obedience? Or, has our sense of community as a nation really just degraded in the ensuing eighty years?
In this episode, we examine a series of meal planning pamphlets published as part of the U.S. Government’s National Wartime Nutrition Program. The pamphlets were distributed during World War II, with the intent to help housewives make the most of their allotted rations. But, in addition to recipes, these pamphlets can also provide us a glimpse into how Americans viewed collective responsibility during times of crisis.
What is Material Culture?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines material culture as "the totality of physical objects made by a people for the satisfaction of their needs, especially: those articles requisite for the sustenance and perpetuation of life."
But that definition is just a starting point...
One of those great audio productions that makes the listener that much smarter. ❤️
Interesting, brilliant, and human
Such an empathetic approach to exploring objects, histories, norms, and implications for today!!! Gianofer is a rockstar!!!!
As Rays of Light: Framing our lives and stories through objects
Love the design and the name. I’m looking forward to hearing more history told through band sabers and Arkansas buggies. I hope listening to this podcast will help me see the stories refracted around me and make me a little more refrangible too!
adj. Capable of being refracted.
Capable of being refracted in passing from one medium to another, as rays of light.
adj. Capable of being refracted, or turned out of a direct course, in passing from one medium to another, as rays of light.