Podcasts are the perfect entertainment for the current moment. Need a diversion? There's a podcast to fit every interest and mood. Physical distancing? Not a problem. Plus you're likely to learn something new every time you listen.
We asked a dozen faculty to suggest a favorite podcast related to their field, and they were happy to oblige. Check out their picks (including a triple nod to RadioLab!) related to politics, literature, gender, and more.
Money & Politics
Recommended by Mark Smith, professor of political science
“I'm a fan of The Weeds. It focuses on political matters, often involving the design, implementation, and effects of public policy. The podcast draws from scholarly research and is a useful bridge between academia and an educated lay public.”
The Indicator from Planet Money
Recommended by Melissa Knox, senior lecturer, Department of Economics
“The Indicator podcast from NPR explores current general interest topics from an economist's perspective, usually through the lens of recent economics research. Far from being ‘inside baseball,’ however, the podcast presents a fresh take on the debates of the day in a way that is accessible to a general audience. It is the companion podcast to NPR's Planet Money, which I also recommend for a less academic — but still informed by research — presentation of current issues.”
More Perfect, with a nod to RadioLab
Recommended by Sarah Keller, Duane and Barbara LaViolette Endowed Professor of Chemistry
“Like many other scientists, I am a devoted fan of the RadioLab podcast. I’d also suggest their spin-off podcast, More Perfect, which explains ‘how the Supreme Court got so supreme,’ telling stories of the people and history behind the court's decisions. In the College of Arts & Sciences, a central goal of professors is to help students develop skills to become life-long learners. For me, listening to More Perfect has been a delightful way to continue my own learning.”
Recommended by Amanda Swarr, associate professor of gender, women & sexuality studies
“Despite increased mainstream visibility, trans people of color are facing more violence than ever before. This contradiction is taken on by a new podcast centered on trans activists’ stories about changing the world. Their reflections could not be more timely, offering tools to challenge transphobia and centering a Black feminist vision of ‘liberation that includes everybody.’”
Recommended by Ralina Joseph, professor of communication
“Jenna Hanchard, former KING-5 TV anchor and reporter, just started a new podcast, Lola’s Ink. She describes it as ‘a podcast where we explore stories of Black girl liberation.’ Even from the first episode it’s fire.”
Recommended by Moon-Ho Jung, professor of history
“I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts, but I enjoy the Kondabolu Brothers’ ‘Untitled’ Podcast. Comedian Hari Kondabolu, who has personal connections to Seattle, and his brother Ashok reflect on their South Asian immigrant parents, their childhoods, and their lives in general and offer in the process searing and hilarious critiques of race and politics in the twenty-first century.”
Sex & Sexism
Recommended by Melanie Martin, assistant professor of anthropology
“Radiolab covers a wide range of science-related topics. I have played episodes on sex/gender and neurology in my classes ‘The Evolutionary Biology of Women’ and ‘Hormones and Behavior.’ Although it is a fairly popular podcast, few of my students have heard of it, and it is so accessible and a wonderful introduction to the medium. I play the episodes in class rather than assign them, to promote focused attention and create a shared experience. The podcast has incredible production values and the narratives really draw listeners and paint vivid mental images of complex biological phenomena. For all these reasons, I specifically recommend the Radiolab Gonads series which masterfully tackles the biological continuity of sex and gender in humans and other animals.”
Recommended by LeiLani Nishime, professor of communication
“Even though they haven't put out any new episodes this year, I often go back and re-listen to episodes of ‘Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace.’ The co-hosts are surprisingly light-hearted given the subject matter and take an intersectional approach to sexism in the workplace, looking at both race and gender. The show gives us a vocabulary for the workplace microagressions many people have experienced but have not recognized as a widespread problem. The hosts critique institutionalized sexism, but they also give concrete suggestions to fight back and often incorporate communication concepts to explain why some approaches work better than others.”
Science & Technology
Recommended by Anne McCoy, professor of chemistry
“I have been regularly listening to RadioLab for more than a dozen years. Radiolab podcasts integrate sound and stories to explore complicated topics in a way that is accessible without oversimplifying the underlying ideas or the questions that are raised. I find that each episode makes me think. Over the years it’s gotten much broader than science and technology and certainly much broader than chemistry, but listening to the podcasts has also given me a number of ideas on how to communicate science.”
Bonus: Check out RadioLab co-originator Jad Abumrad’s TedTalk, “How Dolly Parton Led Me to an Epiphany,” about the development of his approach to RadioLab.
Literature & the Arts
Recommended by Whitney Lynn, assistant professor of interdisciplinary visual arts
"99% Invisible explores how design impacts our perception and experience of the world, and the complicated political histories embedded in objects, artworks, and architecture. Some of my favorite episodes consider curious stories about color, the (American) invention of Chinatown, Victor Hugo Green's travel guide for Black motorists, and why a bronze foot was cut off of a conquistador statue in New Mexico. In addition to the podcast, there's also a great website, with images and links to accompany each episode."
Recommended by Brian Reed, divisional dean of the humanities and professor of English
"Created by PhD students at the University of Oregon, the podcast offers short, lively introductions to, and discussions about, a wide variety of Chinese literary works including Confucian classics, Tang Dynasty poetry, Ming Dynasty ghost stories, and contemporary fiction. You don’t have to know a word of Chinese to enjoy the podcast, nor do you have to be au courant with the latest literary critical jargon. It’s an excellent, accessible introduction to the abundant riches of China’s 3000-year-old literary tradition, and it’s helping me fill in gaping holes in my own education as a poetry scholar. Occasionally the hosts concentrate on historical topics, such as the 1976 Tiananmen Square Incident and the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently they did an arc on “toxic masculinity” in foundational texts in the Chinese canon such as the novels Water Margin and Plum in the Golden Vase."
Recommended by Scott Magelssen, associate professor of drama and Donald E. Petersen Endowed Fellow
“On TAP is a podcast produced by Washington University in St. Louis, billed as ‘a cross between a casual faculty seminar and an impromptu conversation at the conference hotel bar.’ TAP refers to a common abbreviation for Theatre and Performance, but there's also an ‘on tap’ theme that runs through each episode: the hosts chat about recent performances or research projects as if they're having beers together. Recent episodes have addressed discipline-specific concerns, but they've also covered more broadly appealing topics, like revisiting the 1996 community theatre mocumentary Waiting for Guffman.”