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Ear to the Pavement is a podcast about politics and social movements. We feature interviews with people who are thinking, writing, working, and organizing on the front lines of planning and policy. Ear to the Pavement is produced by Allison Lirish Dean, in association with Progressive City.

MARCH 1, 2024

Adolph Reed, Jr. and Barbara J. Fields: “Dysplacement” and The American South 

In Episode Twenty-Six, of Ear the Pavement, Allison speaks with political scientist Adolph Reed, Jr. and historian Barbara J. Fields about the complexities of American South as a cohesive region, a collection of diverse local places, an identity, and an ideological construct. The American South has long been perceived as regionally distinct in ways that don’t apply to other parts of the country. At the same time, the region has undergone enormous changes over the past couple of centuries, and continues to evolve rapidly in ways that, as in the rest of the U.S., bring increasing economic precarity and instability, especially for working-class people. These contradictions raise important broader questions about the relationship between our increasingly threatened ability to forge strong place-based identities, and the survival of democratic politics. 


Barbara Fields is a professor at Columbia University specializing in the history of the American South. She has written extensively about American slavery and the Civil War. Her book Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life— was co-authored with her sister the sociologist Karen Fields, and critically examines how a commitment to the notion of race inflects class politics in the United States.


Adolph Reed is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. His most recent book is No Politics but Class Politics—with Walter Benn Michaels. Reed has written extensively both academically and journalistically about U.S. class politics, and how they are influenced by concepts of race. Presently he is a columnist for the Nation Magazine and a regular contributor to the very excellent Class Matters Podcast.

JANUARY 20, 2023

Deconstructing Feminism: Yasmin Nair on THE RIGHT TO SEX

In Episode Twenty-Five, the third installment in our Deconstructing Feminism series, Allison and author and activist Yasmin Nair discuss The Right to Sex by Amia Srinivasan, situating it in relation to Kyla Schuller’s The Trouble With White Women and Rafia Zakaria’s Against White Feminism, books discussed in the series’ previous two episodes. Throughout the discussion, Nair continually touches on issues of hierarchy and deference in the publishing world, arguing that an awareness of such dynamics is important in any feminist analysis.


Related links to Nair’s writing on White feminism, trauma feminism, and the politics of publishing:


The Perils of Trauma Feminism (Current Affairs) 


Nair’s work on “soft plagiarism


Nair on books and publishing


Deconstructing Feminism:
Yasmin Nair on White Feminism, Part 2

Episode Twenty-Four is Part 2 of Allison’s conversation with writer and activist Yasmin Nair, about White Feminism, and about two recent books on the topic: Kyla Schuller’s The Trouble With White Women, and Rafia Zakaria’s Against White Feminism. This episode zeroes in on these authors’ treatment of the phenomenon of the White female Trump voter as a touchstone for contemporary intersectional feminist analysis


For more background on the history Whiteness studies, see Cedric Johnson’s essay, “The Wages of Roediger.”

AUGUST 12, 2022

Deconstructing Feminism:
Yasmin Nair on White Feminism, Part I

Episode Twenty-Three is the first in a new series with writer and activist Yasmin Nair, about contemporary feminist books. We begin the series with an examination of two recent titles: Kyla Schuller’s The Trouble With White Women, and Rafia Zakaria’s Against White Feminism. While Schuller’s and Zakaria’s common call for the dismantling of White feminism is, as Nair states, “interesting and necessary,” each of these books also contains its own distinct set of pitfalls, a closer analysis of which sheds light on the complicated and troubling issues arising at the intersection of modern-day American feminism, antiracism, academia, and publishing. 


For more background on the history Whiteness studies, see Cedric Johnson’s essay, “The Wages of Roediger.”


APRIL 8, 2022

Adolph Reed, Jr. on “The South: Jim Crow and its Afterlives”

In Episode Twenty-Two of Ear to the Pavement — the first in a new series about the American South — Allison talks with Professor Adolph Reed, Jr. about his new book, “The South: Jim Crow and its Afterlives,” published in 2022 by Verso. In the book, Reed speaks as a member of the last generation with a living memory of the Jim Crow order, offering a corrective to our increasingly caricatured notions of what the order actually was. By weaving together his own personal stories of growing up under Jim Crow with his signature political analysis, Reed shows us that it was the stuff of ordinary, everyday life that held the system together.

FEBRUARY 11, 2022

The Death of the Composer as Social Critic: Marianna Ritchey on Composing Capital

The expectation of radical self-sufficiency is a hallmark of the neoliberal U.S. economy in the early 21st century, and the arts are no exception. The rise of the discourse and practice of “musical entrepreneurship” within the classical music field is a case in point. In Episode Twenty-One of Ear to the Pavement, Allison speaks with musicologist Marianna Ritchey about about her book, Composing Capital, which looks critically at the neoliberalization of musical labor, and the broader questions it raises about what art is for, who gets to produce it and under what conditions, and how the arts serve different political ideologies.

OCTOBER 22, 2021

Mindy Thompson Fullilove on Main Street as a 21st-Century Machine for Living

In Episode Twenty, Allison speaks with author and social psychiatrist Mindy Thompson Fullilove, about her book Main Street: How a City’s Heart Connects Us All. In it, Fullilove argues for a vision of Main Street — from large cities to rural farm towns — not as dead but as “machines for living” or “factories of invention” that not only build community but that can help us solve some of our biggest problems, like inequality, racism, and the climate crisis.

JUNE 8, 2021

Deconstructing #MeToo: Jennifer Hirsch, Shamus Khan, and Lacy Crawford on Sexual Citizens

In Episode Nineteen, the fifth in a series about books related to #MeToo, Allison speaks with authors Jennifer Hirsch and Shamus Khan about Sexual Citizens (2020). It’s a book that everyone seems to be talking about, and for good reason: Sexual Citizens offers us a profoundly liberating and at the same time pragmatic new roadmap for thinking about and addressing one of the most heated issues of our time, sexual assault on college campuses. Author Lacy Crawford, whose explosive 2020 memoir Notes on a Silencing chronicles her own campus sexual assault, also joins the conversation.

DECEMBER 31, 2020

Deconstructing #MeToo: Yasmin Nair on “Know My Name”

In Episode Eighteen, the fourth in a series about books related to #MeToo and our final episode for 2020, Allison talks again with author and activist Yasmin Nair, this time about Chanel Miller’s 2019 memoir, Know My Name. The book is a blistering and tender account, from Miller’s perspective, of her sexual assault by Stanford University student Brock Turner, and its harrowing aftermath in The People v. Turner case. Miller’s writing is brilliant and deft, and manages to convey both her personal story as well as the mechanisms of the broken system that was supposed to bring justice. Allison and Yasmin examine how Know My Name resists a lot of the problematic issues that often beset so-called “survivor” narratives, and what the emergence of Miller’s voice has meant for the larger politics of #MeToo. 

SEPTEMBER 17, 2020

The Antiracist Movement and the Class Question, with Bill Fletcher, Jr.

The tension between race and class that continues to bedevil the American left flared up recently when a talk that prominent scholar Adolph Reed was slated to give to the New York City chapter of DSA was cancelled. The skirmish created such a ripple it was covered by the New York Times. But what really lies beneath this dustup? On Episode Seventeen of Ear to the Pavement, author and labor activist Bill Fletcher, Jr. reflects on how the left handles differences within its own ranks, whether the antiracist movement really has a class problem, the need for both allies and comrades (and the difference between the two), and what needs to change if the left is serious about building real power.

AUGUST 21, 2020

Deconstructing #MeToo: JoAnn Wypijewski on Sex, Power, and the Politics of Fear

On Episode Sixteen of Ear to the Pavement, the third in a series of books related to #MeToo, Allison talks with NYC-based journalist JoAnn Wypijewski about her recent book, What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About #MeToo: Essays on Sex, Authority, & the Mess of Life, published by Verso. In this collection, spanning thirty years of reporting on scandals from Abu Ghraib to the Harvey Weinstein saga, Wypijewski reveals our tendency to flatten complex stories in pursuit of villains and victims, in the process forging a “poisoned solidarity” that actually undermines the possibility of true social justice.

​MAY 13, 2020

Deconstructing #MeToo: Yasmin Nair on Catch And Kill

On Episode Fifteen of Ear to the Pavement, the second in a series about books related to #MeToo, Allison talks again with Chicago-based writer, academic, and activist Yasmin Nair about Catch and Kill, Ronan Farrow’s 2019 book reconstructing his efforts to report the Harvey Weinstein story. Nair brings her decades of experience at the intellectual intersection of gender and politics to Catch and Kill, which is at once a chronicle of the Weinstein scandal, a story about journalism itself, and an attempt by Farrow to redraw his own complicated family story. But what kind of a #MeToo narrative does this book weave, and at the dawn of a new decade, are we standing triumphant in the movement’s victories, or in its crumbling ruins?

APRIL 3, 2020

Repurposing the Webs of Infection as Webs of Connection, with Mindy Thompson Fullilove

On Episode Fourteen of Ear to the Pavement, Allison talks with professor and author Mindy Thompson Fullilove about how her past work on public health crises such as 9/11and the AIDS epidemic is informing her current thinking about the coronavirus pandemic, and why we need to “remember, respect, learn and connect” in these difficult and frightening times. Her blog can be found here.

MARCH 16, 2020

Snake Emojis, South Carolina, and the State of the Sanders Campaign, with Bill Fletcher, Jr.

In Episode Thirteen of Ear to the Pavement, Allison talks with author and labor activist Bill Fletcher, Jr. about the Bernie Sanders campaign’s victories and mistakes, why Sanders failed to win over black voters in the South, the Sanders-Warren rift, and where the progressive movement needs to go from here.


FEBRUARY 19, 2020

Deconstructing #MeToo: Yasmin Nair on She Said

In Episode Twelve, the first in a series about books related to #MeToo, we talk with Chicago-based writer, academic, and activist Yasmin Nair about She Said, the 2019 book by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Nair situates She Said within the current journalism economy, as well as within the messy politics of #MeToo, and provides trenchant analysis of the book’s strengths and shortcomings. Nair also recently talked with Trevor Beaulieu on the Champagne Sharks podcast about the Influencer Industrial Complex.

AUGUST 15, 2019
How today’s politically ineffectual billionaire CEOs make the corporate elites of the 1950s look like moderate pragmatists.

In his 1956 book The Power Elite, sociologist C. Wright Mills painted a disturbing picture of U.S. society in which a small group of people at the heads of corporations, government, and the military exercised increasing control over important decisions affecting the country and its citizenry. In Episode Eleven of Ear to the Pavement, we talk to sociologist Mark Mizruchi, author of The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite, about how Mills’  classic has held up over time, and what light might it shed on the current crisis of inequality in the Unites States in which three men — Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett — own as much wealth as the bottom half of Americans.

DECEMBER 21, 2018

It’s not just HQ2. Amazon has been stealing public money from the start. 

The billions in tax breaks Amazon is slated to receive for its new headquarters in New York and Virginia has been big news lately, but for tax policy watchdog and Good Jobs First founder Greg LeRoy, Amazon’s HQ2 is just the latest chapter in the company’s long history of gaming the U.S. tax system. In Episode Ten of Ear to the Pavement, we  dive into the myriad ways Amazon has been dodging taxes from day one, the consequences for local economies and the public services we rely on, and what we can do to rein in the tax-break-industrial-complex that funnels taxpayer dollars to wealthy corporations that don’t need it. 

SEPTEMBER 20, 2018

Corporate America Is Embracing Racial Equity. Should We Cheer Them On?

Social justice non-profit PolicyLink has documented how a focus on racial equity has led to more business success for companies like PayPal, Prudential, and Gap, and they’re using these examples to convince more corporations to embrace racial equity. But where does this approach to racial justice come from, and how far can it take us? In Episode Nine, PolicyLink Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell and author and labor activist Bill Fletcher, Jr., unpack the argument that racial equity gives companies a competitive advantage, and what it means for our politics. 

APRIL 23, 2018

Living on 90 Percent Less Energy: Can We Do It for Climate Justice?

Of all of the things there are to worry about in the Trump era, climate change is at the top of the list. But the failure to act effectively on climate long predates Trump. In Episode Eight of Ear to the Pavement, Anne Peterman of Global Justice Ecology Project argues that by promoting market-based solutions such as carbon trading, a series of American presidential administrations have not only failed to address climate change, but have also helped enrich corporations at the expense of poor and indigenous communities worldwide. What we really need in order to solve the climate crisis is a collective effort to transform society. But how might this happen, and what would a truly sustainable world look like?

NOVEMBER 16, 2017

Everyday Radicals: What #TheResistance Can Learn From the League of Revolutionary Black Workers

In too much American political discourse, race and class are treated as separate issues, when they’re really integrated. But what does a politics that truly deals with both look like? The League of Revolutionary Black Workers has an answer. Formed in 1969 and lasting only a few years, the League was one of the most politically sophisticated movements in American history. In Episode Seven of Ear to the Pavement, Dan Georgakas, author of Detroit, I do mind dying, explains why the League is so relevant to our current political moment.

SEPTEMBER 15, 2017

Take Back the Land beat Bank of America. Here's how they did it.

In Episode Six of Ear to the Pavement, housing organizer Rob Robinson recounts his journey from homelessness to the housing movement, and explains how Take Back the Land, an organization he co-founded, used radical organizing to successfully fight the corporate forces that helped create the foreclosure crisis. Robinson is currently a volunteer organizer with the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI), and is connected to housing and land movements in Europe, South Africa, and Brazil.


MAY 2, 2017

Do We Need a Breitbart of the Left?
Since Trump was elected, Left independent media outlets have been on the rise. Current Affairs Magazine is at the forefront of this movement. In Episode Five of Ear to the Pavement, Current Affairs founder and editor, Nathan J. Robinson, talks about the experiences that led him to start his own media organization, the importance for the Left of getting out of the elite media bubble and reaching a broad audience, and the crucial ingredients for building an effective progressive media. 

APRIL 5, 2017

The Urgency of Community Media in an Era of Noise

In Episode Four of Ear to the Pavement, documentary filmmaker and teacher Louis Massiah talks about the importance of using media to focus attention on the concerns and experiences of ordinary people. One of the country’s most important and celebrated pioneers in the field of community media, Massiah is Founder and Executive Director of the Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia, a media arts center which has been around since 1982. The center’s mission is to help communities in the Philadelphia area learn to make media both as a means of artistic expression, and as a tool for progressive social activism.

FEBRUARY 22, 2017

Revisiting Root Shock in an Age of Mass Displacement

As more and more people are displaced by gentrification, war, deportation, economic instability, and other forces, the concept of "Root Shock" is as relevant as ever. In Episode Three of Ear to the Pavement, psychiatrist, author, and scholar Mindy Thompson Fullilove revisits her classic book, Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It. Well before it was an accepted idea, Fullilove documented how people's ability — or lack thereof — to put down roots and shape their communities influences not only individual mental health, but society as a whole.

JANUARY 23, 2017

Inauguration Special, Unpacking Trump
In Episode Two of Ear to the Pavement, we present an extended interview with planning scholar, author, and activist Tom Angotti about his personal reaction to the rise of Donald Trump, how we got here, his biggest concerns, and how progressives might respond. This interview delves further into themes Tom covered in his November piece in Progressive City, Trump: What Can Progressive Planners Do?

NOVEMBER 13, 2016

The Brooklyn Wars with Neil DeMause

In Episode One of Ear to the Pavement, Allison Lirish Dean speaks with New York City-based journalist and author Neil DeMause about gentrification and development in Brooklyn, and his new book, The Brooklyn Wars: The Stories Behind the Making of New York's Most Celebrated Borough

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