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The Backdrop Podcast

The Backdrop podcast is a monthly interview program featuring conversations with UC Davis scholars and researchers working in the social sciences, humanities, arts and culture. Hosted by public radio veteran Soterios Johnson, the conversations feature new work and expertise on a trending topic in the news.

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Episode 6

Keith Watenpaugh on Helping Refugee Students Reclaim Their Right to Education

Keith Watenpaugh

According to one estimate, the global refugee population has more than doubled over the past decade to 26 million. Professor Keith Watenpaugh, director of the Human Rights Studies program at UC Davis, leads an innovative project to help refugee students start or continue their university education — even as they’re displaced and on the move.

In this episode of The Backdrop, Watenpaugh discusses the Article 26 Backpack project, the rapid growth of UC Davis’ Human Rights Studies program and his rethinking of the history of humanitarianism.

More info
Article 26 Backpack
Refugees Reclaim Human Rights With Technology
UC Davis Launches Digital Tool in Lebanon to Help Refugees Reclaim Right to Education
Video: Article 26 Backpacker Tells His Story
Doctoral Student Designs Comic Book for Refugee Project
UC Davis Human Rights Studies Program
Book: "Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism"

Episode 5

Rachel Teagle on the Reopening the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art

Lizbeth De La Cruz

UC Davis’s fine arts museum is reopening to the public after being closed for more than a year because of the pandemic. The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art is reopening on June 3rd, following campus COVID-19 protocols.

In this episode of The Backdrop, the museum’s founding director, Rachel Teagle, discusses the institution's new exhibitions, how the museum has been weathering the pandemic and how the yearlong closure helped the staff focus on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

More from the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art:
Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem website


Episode 4

Lizbeth De La Cruz on “Humanizing Deportation”

Lizbeth De La Cruz

In a typical year, hundreds of thousands of people are deported from the U.S. for entering or staying in the country illegally. A digital storytelling project at UC Davis, called “Humanizing Deportation,” aims to document their stories.

On this month’s episode, Ph.D. candidate Lizbeth De La Cruz, discusses the project’s goals, how it got started and her experience working as a member of one of the research teams collecting and preserving these stories.

More from The Humanizing Deportation Project
Project website
Humanizing Deportation documentary

Episode 3

Magdalena Wojcieszak on New Studies Finding Exposure to Media Does Not Increase Political Polarization

Magdelan Wojcieszak UC Davis

Conventional wisdom has held that as people are exposed to more partisan news, they become more polarized. But a new study finds that’s not so. On this month’s episode of The Backdrop, Magdalena Wojcieszak discusses a couple of new studies she has co-authored that found no correlation between media exposure and political polarization.

Wojcieszak, a Professor of Communication at UC Davis, studies how the changing media environment creates both opportunities and challenges for informed publics, tolerant citizenry, and responsive governance.

More from Magdalena Wojcieszak
Free Speech And The Rise Of Misinformation And Conspiracy Theories
‘Interview: UC Davis professors discuss combatting COVID-19 vaccine misinformation
An Internet Without Trump

Episode 2

Eric Rauchway on Contentious Presidential Transitions

historian Eric Rauchway
The transition of power from one U.S. president to the next typically goes off without a hitch. But the transition between President Donald Trump and President-Elect Joe Biden has been anything but typical. On this episode of The Backdrop, UC Davis Distinguished Professor of History Eric Rauchway discusses this tumultuous transfer of power and lessons we can learn from another contentious transition, from Herbert Hoover to Franklin Roosevelt.

More from Eric Rauchway
‘Nothing like this has ever happened before:’ Historians reflect on mob violence in Washington
‘I Have Never Heard Of Anything Like This Happening’: A Look At Past Contentious Elections

Episode 1

Kathryn Olmsted on Conspiracy Theories

historian Kathryn Olmsted
Conspiracy theories have circulated in the U.S. for centuries, but recently they have seeped into the mainstream consciousness like never before. On the first episode of The Backdrop, UC Davis historian Kathryn Olmsted discusses her work studying the history and impact of conspiracy theories on American society and politics. She also offers advice on how people can avoid falling prey to them.

More from Kathryn Olmsted
What Birthed Modern Conservatism?