Vox Humanities is a podcast from the Center for Humanities at Virginia Tech. Our focus is on the advancement of human centered knowledge, pursued in conversation with experts whose work enhances public understanding of a complex world to which humanistic inquiry has never been more important. Throughout this series, we return to the theme of "Tech for Humanity," a university-wide initiative guiding research, curriculum, and engagement across many disciplines at Virginia Tech. The host, Sylvester Johnson, is the director of the Center for Humanities and leads the Tech for Humanity initiative.
In January 2022, Sylvester Johnson spoke with Dr. Mxolisi Victor Mavi, a veteran activist of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement and expert in the study of theology, race, politics, and global liberation movements. Dr. Mavi is a collaborator with the “Future Humans, Human Futures” project on religion, technology, and ethics that has been generously supported by the Henry Luce Foundation. They discussed Dr. Mavi’s advocacy for social justice in South Africa during both the period of formal racial apartheid and more recently under the system of multi-racial democracy that has been shaped by drastic inequality. Their conversation explores the global dimensions of economic change that technology innovation and the “digital divide” have created as major challenges that must be addressed to shape a more equitable future for the twenty-first century.
The New River
In December 2021, Sylvester Johnson spoke with Ed Falco and Amanda Hodes about the creation and development of New River, a journal of digital writing and art currently housed at Virginia Tech. Ed Falco founded the journal in collaboration with Len Hatfield in 1996 and describes the origins of the journal within the context of emerging digital humanities technologies. Amanda Hodes, who served as outreach coordinator at the time of this recording, explains the various ways the journal has positively shaped writing, art, and creativity since its founding.
Laura Belmonte and Shaila Mehra
During June of 2021, Sylvester Johnson spoke with Laura Belmonte, Dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences about her book The International LGBT Rights Movement: A History (2020). They were joined by Shaila Mehra, the college’s Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion who is a scholar of Black feminist theory. Belmonte, whose research examines international relations, gender and sexuality, and global politics, discusses the impetus for her research and the significance of a global approach to understanding the struggle for LGBTQ rights.
John Lardas Modern
Professor John Modern, a scholar of religion and secularism, has written Neuromatic, an interdisciplinary study of religion and the brain that explores how religion and brain science have influenced each other as humans have sought to understand cognition, reality, and human identity. Professor Modern spoke with Sylvester Johnson for this episode in 2021, shortly before the book's release. They discussed some of the book's key insights and the broader implications for understanding the possibilities and limitations of religious and scientific efforts to understand humanity.
Matthew Salesses & Silas Cassinelli
Matthew Salesses is the author of the bestsellers The Hundred-Year Flood, an Adoptive Families Best Book of 2015 and a Best Book of the season at Buzzfeed, Refinery29, and Gawker, among others, and Craft in the Real World, an Esquire Best Book of the 2021, which explores alternative models of craft and the writing workshop, especially for marginalized writers. His latest novel is the PEN/Faulkner Finalist Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear, a Thrillist.com Best Book of 2020.
Silas Cassinelli is an assistant professor in the Department of English. He teaches classes in Asian American studies, Ethnic American literatures, and gender and women’s studies. His research focuses on the Korean diaspora, transnational adoption studies, and queer kinship.
Both joined host Sylvester Johnson in a small panel discussion about their race, culture, literature and their shared experience as trans-national Korean-American adoptees.
Novelist, poet, and memoirist Lucinda Roy’s latest book is the speculative novel THE FREEDOM RACE (Tor/Macmillan), Volume I of THE DREAMBIRD CHRONICLES trilogy. Among her previous books are the memoir NO RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT: What We’ve Learned from the Tragedy at Virginia Tech, the novel LADY MOSES (a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection) and the poetry collection THE HUMMING BIRDS, winner of the Eighth Mountain Poetry Prize. A Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, she gives keynotes and presentations around the country on creative writing, race and racism, diversity, and campus safety. Her commentaries and poetry have been published in numerous newspapers and journals, including USA Today, the Guardian, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the New York Times. Her passions include writing, teaching, oil painting, and (when all else fails) laughing till it hurts. Lucinda Roy joined Sylvester Johnson in October of 2021 to discuss her writing, her art, the power of stories, and the way in which imagination can be an antidote to despair.