The Detour is a monthly show about people and ideas from Oregon Humanities. In each episode, we explore challenging questions with writers, educators, artists, and activists. At Oregon Humanities we believe in the power of people listening, learning, and struggling together, and we hope you do too.
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For a significant stretch of our lives, most of us spend a whole lot of time working. In this episode of The Detour—the third in our series on organizing—we'll explore what it means to organize at work with the help of Vanessa Veselka and Gordon Lafer. We'll think about unions and labor and solidarity and power, and we'll also ask what unions are for. Are they primarily a tool to improve the basic conditions of our labor, like pay flexibility, predictability, and safety? Or might they also be for something more like solidarity, democracy and hope? When are unions likely to take root, and what generally stands in their way? And what about this particular moment for unions and labor in Oregon and across the country?
In this episode, the second of our three-part series on organizing, we talk about intergenerational organizing with Adah Crandall, a sixteen-year-old organizer focused on transportation and climate justice; Danny Cage, a youth organizer advocating for racial justice, education reform, and LGBTQ+ rights; and Suzanna Kassouf, a teacher at Grant High School and a cofounder of Sunrise Movement PDX. This conversation explores questions about power, change, and anger—and reminds us that while anger is a powerful force for change, love is stronger.
In this episode, the first of a three-part series on organizing people and communities, we talk with Hahrie Han, a professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University who studies civic and political participation. We also hear from Bruce Poinsette, Marcus LeGrand, Joy Alise Davis, and Keith Jenkins, four Black Oregonians who have been working on community organizing in different parts of the state amid a complex set of conditions.
What does it mean to organize community? Is it something all of us do, whether we mean to or not? Or is it something more technical than that, something that experts do to the rest of us? If it is in fact possible to organize people or communities, can we learn what it takes to organize people well or to organize for the good?
Few conversations are as polarizing as the ones that appear online between Black native Oregonians and transplants. It's a discourse that brings Oregon's history of anti-Black exclusion laws and redlining into the present, along with the frustrations that arise in a small community where so many people know each other. But are these tensions based more in perception than in reality? To explore this question, journalist (and Oregon Humanities Community Storytelling Fellow) Bruce Poinsette and photographer Intisar Abioto gathered a group of Black Oregonians—both those who arrived recently and those who grew up here—for a dinner conversation. In this episode, Bruce and Intisar revisit portions of that conversation and reflect on the themes of Black unity, community building, and the liberatory possibilities of place.
The Pacific Northwest has long been a hospitable home to conspiratorial thinking—often with dangerous results. What leads a person down these dark paths and what might it take to come out the other side? In this episode, we talk with Leah Sottile and Eli Saslow, two Oregon journalists who have gone deep into the world of conspiracy theories, about some of the conditions and patterns that lead people to conspire against the nation they live in and the people they live among.
In this episode, we talk with David Harrelson and Clint Smith about monuments, memorials, and statues—and also about culture, understanding, and hopes for the future. Talking about memorials, as Harrelson and Smith make immediately clear, you can't help but talk about values, and also about people and peoples. And, recently, talking about monuments, memorials, and statues has also meant talking about toppling, contextualizing, replacing, and reimagining.
In this episode, we ask young people in Oregon about what they thought and felt when COVID landed—and what they think and feel now, a few years in. You'll hear from Caroline Gao, a high school senior from Albany, and several students from Encore Academy in Warrenton.
In this episode, we discuss the fictions, myths, and hopes that the United States of America produces and depends on. We spoke with Mitchell S. Jackson, author of The Residue Years and Survival Math, about the dream of homeownership and all it contains, and Omar El Akkad, author of American War and What Strange Paradise, about the self-evident truths we claim to hold within this nation's borders.
Many of us grew up thinking that being coupled with one person—and codifying that union through a government institution—was the ultimate expression of romance. But why do we continue to conform to traditional coupledom despite the data against it? In this episode, we discuss love and ambivalence with Laura Kipnis, author of Against Love and Love in the Time of Contagion. We’ll also hear from Jamie Passaro, a writer and editor based in Eugene, reading from her 2004 essay “Consider the Wedding.”
Episode 8 of The Detour featured conversations with Karl Marlantes and Sean Davis, veterans from Oregon who served in two different wars. In this episode extra, we speak with Sosan Amiri. Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sosan has also had firsthand experience with war. In conversation with Rozzell Medina, Sosan talks about how she advocated as an Afghan American for her family, community, and home country during the US military's withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. Content note: this episode contains brief descriptions of violence.
There are so many ways humans and other beings shape each other’s lives, for bad and for good, often in ways we fail to notice let alone understand. In this episode, we explore the relationship between human beings and other beings—between humans and animals, humans and plants, and humans and the earth itself. We talk to Robin Wall Kimmerer, author, scientist, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and Emma Marris, author and journalist, about the interconnections between beings and the role we play in this fluid web of relationships and responsibilities.
In this episode, we reflect on the significance of the military in American life and discuss what it's like to serve in the armed forces during wartime. We spoke to Karl Marlantes, author and Vietnam War veteran, and Sean Davis, author and Iraq War veteran, about the experience of preparing for war, being at war, and coming back home to Oregon from war. Content note: descriptions of violence throughout and ethnic slurs at the 17 minute mark.
In this episode, we take a look at the ways Oregon is divided and the mechanisms that widen those divides. We talk with Chad Karges, founder of the High Desert Partnership; Amaury Vogel, associate executive director of the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center; and Eddie Melendrez, member of the Ontario City Council, about how Oregonians can work across differences, beliefs, and backgrounds to develop relationships and build trust.
Walk into just about any room in the United States and ask about the biggest challenges facing us today, and you’ll almost certainly hear people talk about divides: political, cultural, religious, racial, economic, educational, generational. In this episode, we talk with Emma Green, a journalist focused on religion and democracy, and David French, a political commentator and moderate evangelical who diverged from an increasingly extremist right.
This week, we're bringing you an episode extra inspired by our episode “Communities of Contagion” with Eula Biss. Our conversation with Eula happened in 2015, long before pandemic was an everyday word. We wanted an updated conversation to take a present look at the moral responsibility we have to everybody in the time of COVID. So we spoke with Courtney Campbell, a medical ethicist at Oregon State University who engages in conversations about the ethics of vaccinations.
Today, we explore how community can be a source of mutual contagion, as well as mutual support, with Eula Biss, the author of four books, including Notes from No Man's Land and On Immunity: An Inoculation. This conversation was originally recorded in 2015, when California had recently removed exemptions for vaccinations, and Portland had just voted no on adding fluoride to city water for the fourth time.
When you hear the words "criminal justice system," what do you think about? In this episode, we'll dig into ideas around punishment, accountability, and justice, and explore how those show up or don't in our court and prison systems. First, we'll revisit a 2018 conversation with Bobbin Singh, executive director of Oregon Justice Resource Center; david rogers, a program officer for the Ford Foundation and former executive director of ACLU of Oregon; and Rene Denfeld, author and criminal investigator. Then we'll talk with Monica Mueller, a senior instructor of philosophy at Portland State University who also teaches in Oregon prisons.
This episode is dedicated to writer Barry Lopez, author of numerous books on travel, landscape, animals, and humanity and a longtime Oregon resident. Lopez passed away in December 2020, just three months after losing a significant portion of his property on the McKenzie River to the Holiday Farm Fire. We’ll listen to a conversation with Lopez from 2015 and hear from Debra Gwartney, Lopez’s wife, reading from her essay “Fire and Ice,” originally published in Granta, about Lopez’s life and final days.
In this episode we talk with novelist and scholar David Treuer, author of The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, Rez Life, and many other books, about land, possession, and his recent article in The Atlantic, “Return the National Parks to the Tribes.” We’ll also hear from Christine Dupres, Portland author, therapist, and member of the Cowlitz tribe, reading from her 2016 essay “Between Ribbon and Root.”
This episode explores democracy, especially how we can participate in governing ourselves as well as some of the challenges to doing so. We talk with people working on voting rights and democratic process about what democracy means to them: Desmond Meade, of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, who led the effort to end disenfranchisement of people with past felony convictions in Florida; Danielle Allen, a political ethicist and author of Talking to Strangers, Our Declaration, and Cuz; and Jesse Beason, president and CEO of the Northwest Health Foundation.