The City Podcast “… if you see a mountain, be suspicious. Landfill!”

Chicago Skyline – Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

The quote above in the title is from Professor Robert Bullard, pioneer investigator of environmental discrimination and father of the concept of environmental justice. He is one of the many interviewees in The City, a podcast by USA Today. The full quote is this: “Chicago is completely flat, so if you see a mountain, be suspicious. Landfill!”

The City is a journalistic reconstruction of the start of the illegal dumpsters in the city of Chicago. In this podcast, creator, host, and executive producer Robin Amer, and her team of journalists tell the story of how one of Chicago’s most prolific criminals (John Cristopher) dumped piles of debris in several black neighborhoods. Robin Amer focuses her attention on the “six-story mountain of rubble in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood” and its ties to an FBI operation (operation “Silver Shovel”) aimed to uncover political corruption in the city.

“The FBI called this new undercover investigation Operation Silver Shovel. “Silver” like the 30 pieces of silver Judas got for betraying Jesus. And “Shovel” like the bulldozers at John Christopher’s dumps.” – Says Aimer on Episode 5 where she continues to disclose how this FBI operation worsens the problem of unwanted waste in minority neighborhoods by protecting John Christopher as an informer while he still kept dumping in other neighborhoods, presumably without the FBI’s knowledge.

The podcast is not only well documented, but it also offers its listeners a chance to look at some of the concrete evidence used in the investigation, including some transcriptions, pictures and files. It is all available directly in the website under a link that says “DIG DEEPER”.

The City also has a VR/3d model of the North Lawndale neighborhood as it was in 1992. The model is available though the web or contained in USA Today’s app where you can use a VR set to explore the neighborhood. Alternatively, you can check the 3D map directly below by clicking on the play button and moving your mouse around. Make sure to click on the annotations bar that pops up at the bottom so you can get more information about the effects of this massive dump in the middle of a once clean and healthy neighborhood.

As an avid podcast listener, I recommend The City to anyone interested in urban issues, real stories, journalism and high quality podcasts. If you want to give The City a try, here is a 28 second trailer from the first season. The second season was recently released and I will write about it when I’m done listening!

A 28 second trailer from the first season of The City

You can subscribe for free to The City Podcast on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Himalaya, or wherever you listen to podcasts. While you are there, remember to check out our own podcast: UCS Podcasts – urbanculturalstudies, by Professor Benjamin Fraser from the University of Arizona.

Resources

  • If you would like to learn more about environmental discrimination, make sure to read this article and visit Dr. Bullard’s website here.
  • If you would like to learn more about The City, I recommend this article by Mauricio Peña from the non-profit news outlet Block Club Chicago.
  • If you would like to know more about Robin Amer, you can find her website here.
  • Transcripts from the city are also available at the podcast website here.

The Fitzroy Diaries

Street sign in Fitzroy. Photo by Matthew Kwong on Unsplash

The Fitzroy Diaries is an award-winning 8-chapter fictional podcast about the daily lives of the mid-class residents of Fitzroy, an inner-city suburb located in Melbourne. The podcast reflects the experiences, concerns, and lifestyle of its characters in this Australian suburb. Writer and narrator Lorin Clarke captures the essence of Fitzroy, which even after many waves of gentrification it still shows its past on both its landscape and its people. After listening to the full first season, I cannot wait until October this year when we get to listen to more of this podcast’s beautiful sound design and its unique approach to radio drama.

The Fitzroy Diaries is a podcast by the Australian Broadcast Corporation. It is written and directed by Lorin Clarke and produced by Sophie Townsend.

You can subscribe for free to The Fitzroy Diaries on iTunes, Spotify, Himalaya, or wherever you listen to podcasts. While you are there, remember to check out our own podcast: UCS Podcasts – urbanculturalstudies, by Professor Benjamin Fraser from the University of Arizona.

Resources

  • If you want to check out an interview with the creator and narrator Lorin Clarke, look at this post by the Australian magazine Books+Publishing.
  • If you want to check out Lorin Clarke’s personal website, follow this link.

UCS 011 Schifani on Junk, Sprawl and Horizontal Networks in Buenos Aires

UCS 011 Schifani on Junk, Sprawl and Horizontal Networks in Buenos Aires (24 Nov. 2014)

Conversational interview inspired by scholar Allison Schifani’s article “Alternative Sprawls, Junkcities: Buenos Aires Libre and Horizontal Urban Epistemologies,” published in the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies (1.3, 2014). Based on interviews and research conducted in Buenos Aires in 2012, topics include political activism, the links between technology, society and urban sprawl and design, Buenos Aires Libre (BAL), Once Libre, the urban theory of Certeau and the junk-labor of the recyclable materials collectors known as the cartoneros. [LINK TO ORIGINAL PUBLISHER]

UCS 010 Feinberg on Theater, Labor and La Tabacalera in Madrid

UCS 010 Feinberg on Theater, Labor and La Tabacalera in Lavapiés, Madrid

Conversational interview inspired by scholar Matt Feinberg’s article “From cigarreras to indignados: Spectacles of scale in the CSA La Tabacalera of Lavapiés, Madrid,” published in the International Journal of Iberian Studies (26.1-2, 2013). Approached simultaneously at the urban, regional and national scales, topics include the interconnection between economy, labor, protest, culture, and selling urban space. Discussions also fold in notions of produced authenticity centering on the figure of the tobacco-rolling cigarrera, zarzuelas, and tourism during the Franco dictatorship.  [LINK TO ORIGINAL PUBLISHER]

UCS 009 Klausen on Urban Geocaching in Copenhagen

UCS 009 Klausen on Urban Geocaching in Copenhagen (8 June 2014)

Conversational interview inspired by scholar Maja Klausen’s article “Re-enchanting the city: Hybrid space, affect and playful performance in geocaching, a location-based mobile game,” published in the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies (1.2, 2014). Based on ethnographic research conducted with geocaching players in Copenhagen, Denmark, topics range from a basic introduction to the theoretical underpinnings of geocaching, from the notion of the “magic circle” of play and the reinterpretation of urban spaces as enacted by players in specific urban sites. [LINK TO ORIGINAL PUBLISHER]

UCS 008 Masterson-Algar on Ecuadorians in Madrid’s Retiro Park

UCS 008 Masterson-Algar on Ecuadorians in Madrid’s Retiro Park (8 October 2013)

Conversational interview inspired by scholar Araceli Masterson-Algar’s article “Juggling Aesthetics and Surveillance in Paradise: Ecuadorians in Madrid’s Retiro Park,” published in the International Journal of Iberian Studies (26.1-2, 2013). Mixing ethnography on the ground with Ecuadorian immigrants to Madrid with cultural analysis and discussion of urban planning, topics range from urban parks (the Retiro Park [the section known as La Chopera now home to the 11-M memorial and Forest of Memory], the Casa de Campo…) to Manuel Delgado’s urban anthropology and the dynamics of migration as tied to urban processes of tourism and capital accumulation. [LINK TO ORIGINAL PUBLISHER]

UCS 007 Jefferson on Walcott’s Poetics of Caribbean Colonial Modernity (Castries / Port of Spain)

UCS 007 Jefferson on Walcott’s Poetics of Caribbean Colonial Modernity (Castries / Port of Spain) (15 September 2013)  Conversational interview inspired by scholar Ben Jefferson’s article “New Jerusalems: Derek Walcott’s poetics of the Caribbean city,” published in the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies (1.2, 2014). Topics range from readings/analyses of specific excerpts of poems written by celebrated poet Walcott (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1992) to the ideas of Antonio Benítez-Rojo, Henri Lefebvre, V. S. Naipaul, North American and European city planning traditions and the relationship between rural and urban space specific to Caribbean modernity. [LINK TO ORIGINAL PUBLISHER]