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Scene on Radio

89 EpisodesProduced by Center for Documentary Studies at Duke UniversityWebsite

Scene on Radio is a two-time Peabody-nominated podcast that dares to ask big, hard questions about who we are—really—and how we got this way. Previous series include Seeing White (Season 2), looking at the roots and meaning of white supremacy; MEN (Season 3), on patriarchy and its history; and Seaso… read more

89 Episodes | 2015 - 2021

S5 E9: Pachamama

December 1st, 2021


In several countries around the world, including Ecuador, New Zealand, and the U.S., some people are trying to protect the planet using a legal concept called “rights of nature” – infusing the law with Indigenous …

S5 E8: Last Orders

November 24th, 2021


Among the wealthy, industrialized Western countries that created the climate crisis, Scotland is one of the leaders in pivoting away from fossil fuels – or promising to. Just how quickly will Scots be willing to cut off …

S5 E7: Deluges and Dreams

November 17th, 2021


The climate crisis is not new to Bangladesh. For decades, global warming has exacerbated storms and flooding and turned many thousands of people into refugees in their own country. Yet, even though Bangladeshis did …

S5 E6: "We Don't Have the Power to Fight It"

November 2nd, 2021


Earth’s changing climate is already displacing millions of people, worsening tension and conflict, and sometimes violence – for example, between …

Bonus Episode: Manchin on the Hill, and Introducing Drilled

October 20th, 2021


Co-hosts John Biewen and Amy Westervelt discuss the U.S. Congress’s effort to pass its first major climate bill ever, and Senator Joe Manchin’s move to block a key measure seemingly on behalf of the fossil fuel …

S5 E5: Jakarta, the Sinking Capital

October 13th, 2021


Southeast Asia is especially vulnerable to storms, rising oceans, and other climate effects—though countries in the region did very little to create …

S5 E4: Up to Heaven and Down to Hell

October 6th, 2021


Why has the United States played such an outsized role in the creation of the climate crisis? As a settler nation, the U.S. emerged from the …

S5 E3: "Managing" Nature

September 29th, 2021


If the Enlightenment was so great, why was it not a course correction? In fact, did cultural values that took hold in the West in this period speed up

S5 E2: To the Victor

September 22nd, 2021


How western Europe really broke bad in its understanding of humanity’s place in the natural world, from the Crusades to capitalism. Part 2 of our series, The Repair, on the climate crisis.

By host and producer John …

S5 E1: In the Beginning

September 15th, 2021


Part 1 of our series on the climate emergency. How did we drive ourselves into the ecological ditch? And, crucially, who is this ‘we’? Our story …

Season 5 Trailer: The Repair

August 23rd, 2021


This season will explore the cultural roots of our current ecological emergency, and the deep changes Western society will need to make to save the …

REBROADCAST: S4 E8 The Second Redemption

January 13th, 2021


This special re-broadcast of a Season 4 episode is in response to the attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters. A look at the right-wing …

BONUS EPISODE: Election 2020

November 24th, 2020


What does the 2020 election in the United States tell us, or remind us, about the state of democracy in America? A follow-up to our Season 4 series …

Hearing Hiroshima (Rebroadcast)

August 3rd, 2020


The word “Hiroshima” may bring to mind a black-and-white image of a mushroom cloud. It’s easy to forget that it’s an actual city with a million …

S4 E12: More Democracy

June 10th, 2020


What will it take to make the United States a more fully-functioning democracy, and how can we, as citizens, bring about that change?

By host and …

S4 E11: More Truth

May 27th, 2020


How well do the news media serve us as citizens, and what role does the notion of “objective,” or “neutral,” journalism play in the failings of …

S4 E10: Schooled for Democracy

May 13th, 2020


In most American schools, children *hear about* democracy, but don’t get to *practice* it. What would a more engaged brand of civics education look …

S4 E9: American Empire

April 29th, 2020


“America” and “empire.” Do those words go together? If so, what kind of imperialism does the U.S. practice, and how has American empire changed over …

S4 E8: The Second Redemption

April 15th, 2020


The conservative, neoliberal counterrevolution in the face of expanding democracy in America: It started long before Donald Trump. Even before Ronald …

S4 E7: Freedom Summer

April 1st, 2020


In the summer of 1964, about a thousand young Americans, black and white, came together in Mississippi to place themselves in the path of white …

Bonus Episode: Pandemic America

March 27th, 2020


In this special episode, host John Biewen and series collaborator Chenjerai Kumanyika discuss
the coronavirus pandemic and how the crisis, and the …

S4 E6: A New Deal

March 17th, 2020


The Great Depression presented a crisis not only for the U.S. economy, but for American democracy. President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to save the nation’s system of government, and its economic system, while reforming …

S4 E5: Feminism in Black and White

March 4th, 2020


People fighting for more democracy in the United States often have to struggle against sexism and racism. In fact, those two struggles are often inseparable—certainly from the perspective of black
women and some other …

S4 E4: The Second Revolution

February 19th, 2020


After the Civil War, a surprising coalition tried to remake the United States into a real multiracial democracy for the first time. Reconstruction, …

S4 E3: The Cotton Empire

February 5th, 2020


In the decades after America’s founding and the establishment of the Constitution, did the nation get better, more just, more democratic? Or did it …

S4 E2: "The Excess of Democracy"

January 22nd, 2020


In the summer of 1787, fifty-five men got together in Philadelphia to write a new Constitution for the United States, replacing the new nation’s original blueprint, the Articles of Confederation. But why, exactly? What …

S4 E1: Rich Man's Revolt

January 8th, 2020


In the American Revolution, the men who revolted were among the wealthiest and most comfortable people in the colonies. What kind of revolution was …

Season 4 Trailer: The Land That Never Has Been Yet

December 18th, 2019


Our season-long series will touch on concerns like authoritarianism, voter suppression and gerrymandering, foreign intervention, and the role of …

S3 E12: The End of Male Supremacy?

December 12th, 2018


In our Season Three finale, co-hosts Celeste Headlee and John Biewen talk about where American culture goes from here, sexism-wise. And we hear from …

S3 E11: Domination

November 28th, 2018


Host John Biewen dips into the world of sports talk radio, where guys talk not just about sports but also about how to be a man in twenty-first-century America. What John finds is more complicated than he expected, with …

S3 E10: The Juggernaut

November 14th, 2018


Writer Ben James and his wife Oona are raising their sons in a progressive and “queer-friendly” New England town. They actively encourage the boys to be themselves, never mind those traditional gender norms around …

S3 E9: Be Like You

October 31st, 2018


Lewis Wallace, female-assigned at birth, wanted to transition in the direction of maleness—in some ways. He shifted his pronouns, had surgery, starting taking testosterone. None of that meant he wanted to embrace …

S3 E8: American Made

October 17th, 2018


American history—law, economics, culture—has built different notions of masculinity (and femininity) for people of varying races and ethnicities.  A …

S3 E7: Himpathy

October 3rd, 2018


Several years after Janey was sexually assaulted by her former boyfriend, Mathew, she told some of her closest friends, and her mother, what Mathew …

S3 E6: Warriors

September 19th, 2018


Do nations fight wars because men are naturally violent? Or do societies condition men to embrace violence so they’ll fight the nation’s wars?

Along …

S3 E5: More Than Paper Cuts

September 5th, 2018


The #MeToo Movement has shed a harsh light on sexual harassment in the workplace. Just how bad, and how pervasive, is sexism on the job in the U.S., from day-to-day expressions of disrespect all the way to rape? …

S3 E4: Feminism in Black and White

August 22nd, 2018


The struggles against sexism and racism come together in the bodies, and the lives, of black women. Co-hosts Celeste Headlee and John Biewen look at the intersections between male dominance and white supremacy in the …

S3 E3: Skeleton War

August 8th, 2018


A few hundred years ago, the great thinkers of the Enlightenment began to declare that “all men are created equal.” Some of them said that notion …

S3 E2: Ain't No Amoeba

July 25th, 2018


For millennia, Western culture (and most other cultures) declared that men and women were different sorts of humans—and, by the way, men were better. …

S3 E1: Dick Move

July 11th, 2018


Launching our Season 3 series, co-hosts John Biewen and Celeste Headlee look at the problems of male supremacy. And we visit Deep Time to explore the …

Scene on Radio Season 3: MEN Trailer

June 27th, 2018


Scene on Radio opens its Season 3 series, MEN, with this preview. Host John Biewen introduces the series with series co-host Celeste Headlee.

Music Evgueni and Sacha Galperine. Theme music by Alex Weston. Music and …

I Know It's You (Rebroadcast)

December 13th, 2017


A father turns on a recorder while tucking in his 7-year-old, having no idea he’s about to capture a poignant growing-up moment in his son’s life. …

Transformation (Seeing White, Part 14)

August 24th, 2017


The concluding episode in our series, Seeing White. An exploration of solutions and responses to America’s deep history of white supremacy by host …

White Affirmative Action (Seeing White, Part 13)

August 9th, 2017


When it comes to U.S. government programs and support earmarked for the benefit of particular racial groups, history is clear. White folks have …

Losing Ground

July 26th, 2017


For Eddie Wise, owning a hog farm was a lifelong dream. In middle age, he and his wife, Dorothy, finally got a farm of their own. But they say that over the next twenty-five years, the U.S. government discriminated …

My White Friends (Seeing White, Part 12)

July 12th, 2017


For years, Myra Greene had explored blackness through her photography, often in self-portraits. She wondered, what would it mean to take pictures of …

Danger (Seeing White, Part 11)

June 28th, 2017


For hundreds of years, the white-dominated American culture has raised the specter of the dangerous, violent black man. Host John Biewen tells the …

Citizen Thind (Seeing White, Part 10)

June 14th, 2017


The story of Bhagat Singh Thind, and also of Takao Ozawa – Asian immigrants who, in the 1920s, sought to convince the U.S. Supreme Court that they were white in order to gain American citizenship. Thind’s “bargain with …

A Racial Cleansing in America (Seeing White Part 9)

May 31st, 2017


In 1919, a white mob forced the entire black population of Corbin, Kentucky, to leave, at gunpoint. It was one of many racial expulsions in the …

Skulls and Skin (Seeing White, Part 8)

May 17th, 2017


Scientists weren’t the first to divide humanity along racial – and and racist – lines. But for hundreds of years, racial scientists claimed to provide proof for those racist hierarchies – and some still do.


Chenjerai’s Challenge (Seeing White, Part 7)

May 5th, 2017


“How attached are you to the idea of being white?” Chenjerai Kumanyika puts that question to host John Biewen, as they revisit an unfinished conversation from a previous episode. Part 7 of our series, Seeing White.


That's Not Us, So We're Clean (Seeing White, Part 6)

April 26th, 2017


When it comes to America’s racial sins, past and present, a lot of us see people in one region of the country as guiltier than the rest. Host John Biewen spoke with some white Southern friends about that tendency. Part …

Little War on the Prairie (Seeing White, Part 5)

April 12th, 2017


Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen heard next to nothing about the town’s most important historical event. In 1862, Mankato was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history – the hanging of 38 …

On Crazy We Built a Nation (Seeing White, Part 4)

March 30th, 2017


“All men are created equal.” Those words, from the Declaration of Independence, are central to the story that Americans tell about ourselves and our history. But what did those words mean to the man who actually wrote …

Made in America (Seeing White, Part 3)

March 16th, 2017


Chattel slavery in the United States, with its distinctive – and strikingly cruel – laws and structures, took shape over many decades in colonial …

How Race Was Made (Seeing White, Part 2)

March 1st, 2017


For much of human history, people viewed themselves as members of tribes or nations but had no notion of “race.” Today, science deems race …

Turning the Lens (Seeing White, Part 1)

February 15th, 2017


Events of the past few years have turned a challenging spotlight on White people, and Whiteness, in the United States. An introduction to our series exploring what it means to be White. By John Biewen, with special …

Movement Time

January 25th, 2017


Facts can be ignored by the powers that be and still ignite a movement. An interview with Tim Tyson, author of the new book, The Blood of Emmett Till. Tyson was the first historian or journalist to interview the former …

Emmett and Trayvon (Rebroadcast)

January 11th, 2017


There’s a long and painful history in the U.S. of white men killing black men and boys without punishment. In this episode, we listen in on “Dar He,” …

I Found No Strangers (Travels With Mic, Part 3)

December 14th, 2016


The last in our series exploring the spirit of America in the footsteps of one of its greatest writers, John Steinbeck. At key spots on Steinbeck’s 1960 journey across the country, we team up with artists to explore how …

Reality is Not the Stronger (Travels With Mic, Part 2)

November 30th, 2016


The second in a three-part series, journeying into the soul of America through the eyes of artists, while following in the footsteps of Nobel …

Monster America (Travels With Mic, Part 1)

November 16th, 2016


First in a three-part journey into the soul of America, through the eyes of working people who happen to be artists. In this episode, David Slater in …

El Nuevo South

November 2nd, 2016


Siler City, North Carolina used to be a typical Southern town. Everybody was white or black. Now the town’s population is half Latino. One …

Prince and Philando and Futures Untold

October 19th, 2016


How to grieve when the deaths come so quickly? How, as an African American mother, to protect your child’s innocence and hope? An audio essay by Stacia Brown.

Scene on Radio Season 2 Preview

October 7th, 2016


Scene on Radio is a podcast that asks, How’s it going out there? And leaves the studio to find out, capturing the sounds of life happening and telling stories that explore human experience and American society. 

None of Us Could be Thrown Away (Storymakers, Part 4)

July 27th, 2016


The last installment in our Storymakers series. Four pieces by citizen storytellers on living together, and apart, in Durham, North Carolina. By …

That Old Optimism (Storymakers, Part 3)

July 13th, 2016


More from our team of citizen storytellers in Durham, NC. Stories by Courtney Smith, Katt Ryce, and Kimani Hall, exploring the things that unite and divide people in Durham and in America. Part of Storymakers: Durham, a …

The Way It Is (Storymakers, Part 2)

June 30th, 2016


Three stories conceived and made by citizen storytellers Jamila Davenport, Roberto Nava, and Debby Bussel explore race, class, and gentrification in …

Finding America in Durham, N.C. (Storymakers, Part 1)

June 15th, 2016


Can stories help to bring a community together?  How about radio stories, conceived and made by citizen storytellers? Introducing Storymakers: Durham, a project of the national Localore: #FindingAmerica initiative.

Hearing Hiroshima

May 26th, 2016


The word “Hiroshima” may bring to mind a black-and-white image of a mushroom cloud. It’s easy to forget that it’s an actual city with a million …

My Dad and Me, in Three Songs

May 18th, 2016


It can take a lifetime to make sense of a parent, or to get over him. Or, just maybe, to come to terms. By Ruxandra Guidi.

Close Relations

May 4th, 2016


The people we love have power—the power to upend our lives, or at least to make things interesting. Two stories of surprises, curveballs thrown by family members. Pieces by Qathi Hart and John Rash.

Selected ShortDocs: Memory

April 20th, 2016


A quartet of very short works exploring memory – most inspired by Third Coast Audio Festival ShortDoc Challenges. Pieces by Ligaiya Romero, Madeline Miller, Nan Pincus, and John Biewen.

Rogue Chickens and Ratty-ass Radishes

April 6th, 2016


A punk farmer. A tale of rogue chickens on the loose in the city. A pair of refreshing takes on the whole Food thing, in and around Durham, NC. …

Things I'm Afraid to Say

March 23rd, 2016


A refugee from Bosnia. An NYC-born survivor who grew up poor, black, Muslim, and gay. And how one, and her music, saved the other.


March 9th, 2016


People in two communities – one in Alaska, one in New York State – wrestle with questions about energy and the environment. We listen in on democracy close to home. Stories by John Biewen and Jon Miller, edited by Deb …

Straight, No Chaser

February 24th, 2016


A South Sudanese refugee and the music that cuts his heart to pieces. Thelonious Monk’s North Carolina roots. Music and home. Pieces by Nusaibah …

Losing Yourself

February 10th, 2016


It happens. A happy, healthy young person suddenly gets a grave diagnosis. What does not usually happen: The patient rolls tape. By Ibby Caputo.

The Dead Can't Do You Nothing

January 27th, 2016


It waits for us all. A lot of people want to think about death as little as possible. Others want to dive right in and explore the mystery. Two short docs on the Big D.


The Right Note

January 13th, 2016


Music can be a powerful gift – if you get the song right, or the right song. Two stories from North Carolina.  

Emmett and Trayvon

December 30th, 2015


There’s a long and painful history in the U.S. of white men killing black men and boys without punishment. In this episode, we listen in on “Dar He,” …

No Santa

December 16th, 2015


A father turns on a recorder while tucking in his 7-year-old, having no idea he’s about to capture a poignant growing-up moment in his son’s life. …


December 2nd, 2015


The surest way for a woman to declare herself a Muslim is to wear the head scarf — the hijab. In these two short pieces, young Muslim women explore the often unwelcome questions and perceptions that come with the scarf, …

What Men Talk About When They Talk About Sports

November 18th, 2015


Tens of millions of Americans, most of them men, tune in to sports talk radio. Is sports talk a haven for old-school guy talk, including misogyny and …

A Level Playing Field?

November 4th, 2015


Two families, both making big investments of time and money to involve their kids in sports. But the investments they’re able to make are very …

An Athlete Inside and Out

October 21st, 2015


Tal Ben-Artzi didn’t worry about being an out bisexual athlete at Penn State. Maybe she would have if she’d known the school’s history. How much have …

The (High School) Mascot Wars

October 7th, 2015


Two small towns, one in Idaho, the other in Upstate New York, try to decide whether to change the nickname of their high school sports teams: The …

Friends and Basketball

September 23rd, 2015


More from suburban St. Louis, post-Ferguson, on the popular notion that sports unites communities. Can the camaraderie of a team sport make race and …

Sports, the Great Uniter?

September 1st, 2015


Can a winning baseball team bring St. Louis together post-Ferguson? John Biewen explores the question in the inaugural episode of Scene On Radio, a new podcast of audio stories from the Center for Documentary Studies at …

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