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Imagine Otherwise by Ideas on Fire
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Imagine Otherwise by Ideas on Fire

Author: Cathy Hannabach

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A podcast about bridging art, activism, and academia to build more just futures. On each episode, host Cathy Hannabach interviews the scholars, dancers, authors, artists, and filmmakers imagining collective freedom and creating it through culture.
124 Episodes
The collaborative art of curation is one that takes a complex mixture of confidence and humility. Curators need confidence in their choices and artistic voice but the humility to stay open to learning from others and being surprised by the process. The career of today’s guest, Bakirathi Mani, demonstrates how this dance of confidence and humility enables postcolonial artists, scholars, and curators to challenge imperial visualities while building transnational community. In episode 123 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach interviews Bakirathi about her journey into art curation and what it offers to her work in the classroom, how postcolonial artists and viewers navigate the colonial history of photography in art exhibitions, and why collectively building a world of representations that are no longer haunted by empire is how Bakirathi imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
Women and girls are constantly bombarded with messages to be more confident. Although such advice might be useful for some, it doesn’t account for how race and class shape the politics of confidence to begin with, much less center the perspectives of women, girls, and femmes of color in determining the goals of such confidence. In episode 122 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach interviews curator, community arts educator, and professor Jillian Hernandez, whose interdisciplinary research examines how Black and Latinx women and girls negotiate gender, sexuality, race, and class through cultural production and bodily presentation.  In the conversation, Jillian and Cathy discuss the racialized, gendered, and classed politics of confidence, how women and girls of color are challenging the social hierarchies of the art world, what collective creative support looks like in the age of COVID-19, and why building a world where girls, women, femmes, and mothers of color can rest and resist is how Jillian imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
How does disability justice provide tools for building more sustainable social relations and practices, both during and beyond the current pandemic? In episode 121 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach interviews permaculture designer and disability studies scholar Aimi Hamraie about using natural cycles to prevent burnout, how disability culture practices like slowness and mutual aid reimagine sustainability as collective, and why building a world beyond scarcity is how Aimi imagines otherwise. TRANSCRIPT AND SHOW NOTES:
The dance world and academia are two creative industries known for innovative thinking and vibrant collaborations. But they also share a sustainability problem, as burnout and exhaustion are par for the course and the vast majority of jobs are temporary and precarious. Today’s guest—dancer, scholar, and choreographer Anusha Kedhar—suggests that the increasing demand for more and more flexibility is at the root of such unsustainable relations. The global pandemic has made this even more apparent, as the work/life shifts we’re all experiencing are compounded by historical racial and gender regimes shaping whose flexibility is required to keep everything going. In episode 120 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach interviews Anusha Kedhar about the limits of flexible labor regimes in the dance world and higher education, the methodological ethics and challenges of being part of groups you’re also writing about, sustainability lessons from dance that can help improve academic life, and why building a world around the needs and desires of marginalized groups is how Anusha imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
What do politics, community, and artistic resistance look like beyond the terrestrial? What would happen if we took them to the sky? In episode 119 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach interviews feminist geographical researcher and practitioner Sasha Engelmann, whose work radically transforms our cultural imaginaries of atmosphere and environment. Foregrounding creative-critical approaches to environmental sensing, Sasha examines the role of art in crafting new narratives of atmospheric politics and aerial life. In the interview, Sasha and Cathy chat about the transnational politics of atmosphere and breathing in an era of climate devastation, how to creatively adapt interdisciplinary research during a pandemic, and why collaboratively building an atmospheric commons is how Sasha imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
For those of us who thrive on doing all the things, it is incredibly easy to put off rest and self-care—at least until we hit burnout. Scholars, artists, activists, and other creatives are particularly prone to burnout under even normal circumstances but the pandemic has made this even more acute as we juggle new tasks and emotions. As today’s guest emphasizes, building rest and recovery into our schedules is more important than ever and it requires realistically managing projects with balance in mind. In episode 118 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach interviews Christopher Persaud, the brilliant digital media associate who helps produce this very podcast. Chris’s love of working on diverse collaborative projects has led him to develop a sustainable approach to project management that prioritizes self-care. In the interview, Chris and Cathy chat about juggling diverse projects without getting overwhelmed, why it's so important to build rest into your schedule, COVID-19 lessons to carry into the post-pandemic future, and why building a world where we are free to experiment and ask more questions is how Chris imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
How might the history of Black women’s creative homemaking and citizenship practices help us navigate our current political and cultural moment? What might this history reveal about the racially gendered roots of blurred work and home boundaries? In episode 117 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach interviews cultural critic, professor, and scholar Koritha Mitchell, whose new book From Slave Cabins to the White House traces the creative ways African American women have forged homemade versions of citizenship and redefined success in the face of racist and misogynist oppression. In the conversation, Koritha and Cathy talk about the history of Black women’s citizenship and achievement, how this history shapes tenure and academic life, what running and writing have to teach us about self-defined success, and why centering self-love in work and life is how Koritha imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
One of the biggest concerns right now for academics who are also parents is figuring out how to juggle education for both their students and their children. Many K–12 and higher education institutions have moved to remote instruction for the fall while racialized patriarchy and heteronormativity shape domestic duties in the home space that is now many peoples’ work space as well. Episode 116 of Imagine Otherwise addresses how academic parents are navigating this terrain and developing a social justice framework for digital learning. In the episode, host Cathy Hannabach interviews digital media professor Kishonna Gray, who uses feminism and racial justice to address what she calls the 3 Ps of online teaching: people, pedagogy, and platforms. Kishonna and Cathy discuss building learning experiences that privilege experimentation and radical simplicity, how academic parents and non-parents can structure working from home around their unique needs, why meeting students where they are needs to be a core part of our new normal, and why approaching work and life from an ethics of care is how Kishonna imagines otherwise. Transcript, teaching resources, and show notes:
How can we build accessible online courses in the middle of a pandemic? More than just a call to reproduce in-person teaching in digital environments, this pivot to online education has a powerful potential to help us reshape higher education for the better, to ensure it embodies the racial, gender, and disability justice principles those of us in the interdisciplines have long championed. But that takes rethinking some of our most basic assumptions about what education means and who it is for.  In episode 115 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach interviews Temple University media studies professor Adrienne Shaw, whose approach to the classroom provides a variety of ways educators can foreground accessibility in their daily work. Cathy and Adrienne's conversation illustrates some of the more practical aspects of what it means to do pedagogical and scholarly work in quarantine, as well as the kinds of work/life blurriness we’re all navigating now. In the interview, Cathy and Adrienne chat about building assignments and course structures that enable students to participate in diverse ways; why online teaching is often more accessible for faculty with chronic pain and other disabilities; how administrators can better support teachers and mitigate uncertainty; and why creating accessible education systems by design rather than exception is key to how Adrienne imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
What role can performance play in racial justice struggles? How can theater help us remake the world? The past several months have made even more urgent the centuries-long fight to dismantle the antiblackness and Orientalism that are baked into our social institutions. Such transformations are at the heart of the pedagogy, scholarship, and dramaturgy produced by today’s guest, playwright Dorinne Kondo. Dorinne’s work traces what she calls “reparative creativity,” or the ways artists make, unmake and remake race through their creative work. In episode 114 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach interviews Dorinne Kondo about how Asian American theater companies are reshaping liveness in the context of COVID-19, the powerful role of performance in protests against the state-sponsored killing of Black people, how norms of ability and disability are built into the structure of theater, and why theorizing a new relationship to vulnerability is how Dorinne imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
The mediated politics of identity have animated movements as diverse as anticolonial nationalisms, multiple forms of feminism, transgender and disability rights struggles, and Indigenous protests for environmental justice. In all of these examples, media has been a primary and deeply public means through which such identity politics battles are fought, often in unpredictable ways. The guest for today's episode is media studies scholar Ani Maitra, who has a new book out that offers a fresh take on identity politics. Ani’s work highlights the vital need for critical media analysis and scholarly public engagement in our contemporary moment, particularly for marginalized populations. In episode 113 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach interviews Ani about the role of scholarly public engagement in debates over identity, the transnational politics of global queer cinema, how to write for diverse audiences beyond the academy, and why centering affinity and difference is how Ani imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
What would happen if we threw out the boundaries between academic disciplines? How would our collective histories, conflicts, and corporealities change if we stopped assuming that art, science, and politics have ever been separate projects? Today's guest, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, argues that the complexity of blackness and gender reveal the deep imbrications of all of these projects at the bedrock of what it means to be human. In episode 112 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach interviews feminist scholar Zakiyyah Iman Jackson about her new book and the role of blackness in defining the human both historically and in our current world, how black feminist interdisciplinarity offers tools for resisting complex social violences, and why helping art and scholarship foment minor revolutions is how Zakiyyah imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
How does cultural heritage provide us with the tools to shape what collective freedom looks, sounds, and feels like? This question and its political stakes has guided the life’s work of our guest today, Porchia Moore. In episode 111 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach interviews museum visionary and activist-scholar Porchia Moore about the radical librarians and museum workers who are making information and art institutions newly accessible in our new social distancing world, how race and class structure who feels at home in cultural institutions, and how reclaiming African Americans’ relationship to nature and green spaces is how Porchia imagines otherwise.  Transcript and show notes:
Given everything that’s going on in the world right now, writing is the last thing on many people’s minds. Amidst the uncertainty, anxiety, and grief, many of our writing projects have taken a back seat to other more pressing demands. But what if we approach writing not as a solitary distraction or a productivity demand but rather as a vital source of social support? How might the bonds forged through collaboratively writing with another sustain us through this incredibly difficult time? Our guests for today’s episode, Juana María Rodríguez and Emma Pérez, have published six books between them and are working on two more. But as they explain in our conversation, they approach writing not just as an individual obligation to publish but as a daily craft, a cultivated practice built on queer intimacy and mutual support. As long-term writing partners, Juana and Emma show us what it means to truly trust someone else with our words and what it means to hold space for another over time, distance, and radical change. In episode 110 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach interviews queer feminist Chicanx novelist and scholar Emma Pérez and queer feminist Latinx studies scholar Juana María Rodríguez about the changes COVID-19 has brought to their daily writing routines, how to harness the unsexy parts of writing when inspiration seems hard to come by, building long-term writing partnerships that offer life support as much as writing support, and the vitality of queer friendship as a way to imagine otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
Among the many effects of the recent pandemic and social distancing practices is that most of us find ourselves spending more and more time with screens and smart devices as our daily lives move even further online. The stories we consume through these screens and the material production of our devices have complex, interwoven histories that reveal the limits of global capitalism as well as the ethical, ecological, and political importance of thinking critically about media technologies. If the relationship between media, science, and tech ever seemed abstract, our current moment has revealed how deeply corporeal and concrete it really is. In episode 109 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach interviews environmental media scholar Hunter Vaughan about the role the Hollywood film industry has played in climate change and environmental degradation, the vital importance of interdisciplinary science communication in an era of uncertainty, and why building a media industry with more transparency, accountability, and intersectionality is how Hunter imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
How does a reproductive justice approach to healthcare change the way we understand childbirth and pregnancy? How can we draw on our holistic, embodied selves to build community in a time of heightened anxiety and precarity? The guest for today's episode, Miriam Zoila Pérez, has a diverse body of work that shows why intersectionality is the answer to both of these questions. In episode 108 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach chats with writer, podcaster, and reproductive justice activist Miriam Zoila Pérez about the racially gendered politics of reproductive health, the intimacy of podcasting in the context of community formation, and why building a world where everyone can create the family of their choosing is how Pérez imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
It’s commonplace to hear claims that in our current historical moment science has become politicized, as climate crises, vaccines, and genetic modification get hotly debated in rapid-fire news cycles. But as today’s guest Meghnaa Tallapragada reminds us, science has always been inherently political, reflecting shifting racial, gender, and national ideologies and serving diverse interests. In episode 107 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach chats with science communication studies professor Meghnaa Tallapragada about how interdisciplinarity is crucial to effective public engagement, how colorism shapes public marketing discourses on a transnational scale, how we can use lessons from our creative pursuits in work lives without feeling like every hobby needs to become research, and why building a world where all can be seen and heard is how Meghnaa imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
What role have Black cartoonists played in the history of superheroes, weekend newspaper funnies, and graphic biographies? How have they harnessed the visual power of the comic form to speak back to racist stereotypes and claim space for themselves and their communities? This episode's guest, Rebecca Wanzo, argues that Black cartoonists in both mainstream and underground comics have tackled these questions since the very beginning of the medium. She also suggests that they’ve done so by reworking some of the most troubling visual tropes shaping Black representation in the United States. In episode 106 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach interviews gender studies professor Rebecca Wanzo about how and why Black cartoonists have turned to caricature to resist racist stereotypes, the many ways progressive movements have used visual culture to create social change, how faculty and staff can meet the challenges of doing interdisciplinary work on university campuses, and why teaching students how to see the world differently is how Rebecca imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
How can putting marginalized people at the very center of design and technology change the world for the better? This is the question that has motivated Sasha Costanza-Chock's work for the past two-and-a-half decades. In episode 105 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach and design justice advocate Sasha Costanza-Chock discuss the world-changing effect of putting marginalized people at the center of design and technology practices; how the design justice movement reveals the way social movements have been erased from mainstream storytelling about innovations like Twitter; how researchers, media makers, and community activists can develop mutually beneficial project frameworks; and why challenging universalism and valuing things that don’t scale is how Sasha imagines otherwise. Transcript and show notes:
What happens when a biomedical engineer and a literary studies scholar set out to produce a podcast about academia, culture, and social justice across the STEM/humanities divide? That’s exactly what the guests on this episode—Elizabeth Wayne and Christine "Xine" Yao—have been doing for the past four and a half years with PhDivas. In episode 104 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach interviews Elizabeth Wayne and Christine "Xine" Yao about what it’s like to produce an academic podcast as a form of public scholarship, the transnational and discipline-specific ecology of activism, why the future of academia is public engagement, and how building spaces for folks to thrive is how Liz and Xine imagine otherwise.   TRANSCRIPT AND SHOW NOTES:
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