Introducing the New Books in Interpretive Political and Social Science Podcast
Aarie Glas. Why are you interested in hosting this podcast?
Nick Cheesman. Podcasting is a great medium through which to be heard talking with people who know and care about subjects that matter. I’ve listened to podcasts pretty much since they took off in the mid-2000s, and like many podcast listeners, I habitually ask others about what they subscribe to and why. Around 2012 somebody introduced me to the New Books Network and I was hooked. The network gives mostly scholarly authors the chance to speak in depth about what they have written and why they wrote it, with interviewers who are in their discipline or area of study. It’s totally free of charge, and usually light on jargon. It eliminates all the pay walls and intellectual barriers to communicating widely about new and exciting academic work. I’ve learned so much from listening to new book interviews in politics, history, critical theory and area studies, while jogging, travelling, or washing up.
At some point I decided that I ought to start giving back, and signed up as host of the Southeast Asian studies channel. I’ve been hosting that channel for about five years. In the meantime, I started talking with Peri Shwartz-Shea and Dvora Yanow about the Routledge Series on Interpretive Methods that they are co-editing. I admire that book series because of its clarity of purpose, quality of contents, and simplicity of format. It seems to do all the things that it should do to address in a creative, intelligent, provocative and unencumbered manner the many salient questions about why somebody might do interpretive research, and how. Looking at the titles, authors and style of the series, it seemed obvious that we ought to bring it to the New Books Network, not in bits and pieces, but completely, coherently. I approached the Network chief, and New Books in Interpretive Political and Social Science was born.
AG. What are we likely to hear about in the series?
NC. The series will tack back and forth between how-to guides and exemplary studies. That way listeners can hear from authors who have expertise in different methods, as well as from others talking about the joys and challenges that arise when doing interpretive projects. In both cases, what we are likely to hear about is not only the contents of the books featured, but also some of the backstories, some of the reasons that authors have been motivated to do the work they have done, some of the moments of surprise or doubt or serendipity that can perhaps be more lucidly expressed orally, and in dialogue, than on a page. Hearing interviewees’ vignettes is one of the fun things about a series of this sort. It helps listeners to situate authors’ writings in their intellectual and emotional experiences. Anecdotes and asides can be revealing. At least, they add texture to the books featured. Personally, I also enjoy just hearing the voices of authors whose work I might have read and have heard, so to speak, in my head, but whom I’ve not previously had the chance to listen to. It’s instructive to follow the cadences of a writer’s voice alongside the movement of ideas that they want to convey.
AG. Who is the intended audience, beyond the IMM members?
NC. There are to my mind two target audiences beyond the IMM community. The first is research students in the social sciences who are interested in interpretive research. Maybe they are thinking of doing it, or already are. Some might be lucky enough to get good guidance on interpretive research design. Others may be unsure about how to proceed. If they are in a political science or politics department especially then they might be feeling rather isolated from their peers. They might be meeting with sceptical questions from academic supervisors about what they want to do and why. As the interviewees in the series so far make clear, these are not at all unusual experiences. The series will hopefully give students in that kind of situation some language, materials, ideas and models with which to progress, and excel.
The second audience is people who do not do interpretive research, but who are sufficiently interested that they want to know more about it and the people who do it. Some of these people might be working with the kinds of students that are in the first target audience, or they may have stumbled across a book that identifies as interpretive or interpetivist and want to know more about what the term connotes. Aside from them, the audiences we aim for will depend on the topic of the book featured: for instance, an interview about a book on interviewing, like Lee Ann Fujii’s, might attract listeners who want to learn more about interview techniques, but who are not into ethnography, for example, and vice versa.
AG. Which authors and texts are we likely to hear from and about in the near future?
NC. We’ve done two interviews so far, the first in August 2019 with Peri and Dvora on Interpretive Research Design, to set the tone and terms for the series, and the second, which came out in November 2019, with Sarah Wiebe on Everyday Exposure, which won the Charles Taylor Book Award in 2017. The next, in early 2020, will be another from the Routledge series, and then another Charles Taylor Award winner or nominee. Along the way, we’ll have a mix of both senior and emerging scholars. We want to hear from people with many years experience, like Peri and Dvora, but also from others who have recently published a first book, like Sarah. Also, to be clear, we’ll feature methods texts and research monographs that don’t fall into either the Routledge series or the Charles Taylor award pool. I’m keen to get suggestions for books and authors to feature that are in neither of those categories.
AG. Can you tell us anything else about the series?
NC. Each interview runs for around 40 to 50 minutes, in two halves. We try to get the key ideas of a book into the first half, so somebody could pause or switch off at that point if they’ve had enough, and still have a pretty good idea of what the book is about and why it is in the series. The interviewee does most of the talking, because we want them to have the time and space they need to do their work justice. And we put links to the book and other relevant contents on the Network website. Sarah’s book, for instance, contains a number of haunting photographic essays, interspersed with poetry and prose. The photographer has kindly shared a number of the photographs to post to the website with the interview.
From the second episode, the series is running as part of the New Books in Political Science channel. I’m grateful to the hosts of that channel, Heath Brown and Lilly Goren, for embracing the series. We’re also working on a webpage that will list all the interviews in the series as they appear, so that listeners can access them easily. For now, the first episode is linked through the second one.
Presently the goal is to produce five or six interviews per year. Ideally it would be double that number, at around one per month. To reach that goal, I’d need a co-host. If anyone is interested, let me know! Obviously, it does require some investment of time to prepare for and do the interviews, as well as some investment in equipment—but not too much, and if you’re like me and you listen to a lot of podcasts, it’s both a pleasure to make them and a great way to give something back. What better way to do that than by promoting excellent research in politics and the social sciences with smart and articulate colleagues who are enthusiastic to talk about what motivates them to use interpretive methodologies and methods?
New Books in Interpretive Political and Social Science Podcast Homepage:
New Books in Political Science Podcast Homepage:
https://newbooksnetwork.com/category/politics-society/political-science/ (under construction)
Episode 1 (Peregrine Schwartz-Shae and Dvora Yanow):
Contact: Nick Cheesman, firstname.lastname@example.org