The Backdrop - A UC Davis Podcast Exploring the World of Ideas
13 - Clifford Saron on the Scientific Study of Meditation

13 - Clifford Saron on the Scientific Study of Meditation

April 29, 2022

Clifford Saron, a neuroscientist at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain and the MIND Institute, leads the Shamatha Project, one of the most ambitious and comprehensive longitudinal studies of meditation ever conducted.

In this episode, Saron discusses the findings so far of the Shamatha Project; what science can tell us about the tangible effects of meditation; and how mindfulness affects our physical, mental and emotional health.

12 - Victoria Juharyan on the Destruction of Ukrainian Cultural Heritage

12 - Victoria Juharyan on the Destruction of Ukrainian Cultural Heritage

April 1, 2022

Victoria Juharyan discusses the destruction and threat of destruction of Ukraine’s cultural heritage during the Russian invasion. The visiting assistant professor in the Department of Russian and German at UC Davis teaches literature and philosophy. She has been active in the effort to preserve Ukrainian culture. 

11-Paul Eastwick on the Science of Romantic Relationships

11-Paul Eastwick on the Science of Romantic Relationships

February 8, 2022

The Backdrop explores the mysterious and complicated topic of human relationships.

UC Davis Psychology Professor Paul Eastwick investigates how people initiate romantic relationships and the psychological mechanisms that help romantic partners remain committed and attached. 

In this episode of The Backdrop, Eastwick discusses the latest research on finding the best partner, how compatibility is constructed in a relationship, and whether men and women really approach relationships differently.

10 - Andrés Reséndez on ‘Conquering the Pacific’

10 - Andrés Reséndez on ‘Conquering the Pacific’

December 6, 2021

Acclaimed historian and UC Davis Professor Andrés Reséndez has researched and written a riveting account of the first expedition to sail from the Americas to Asia and back, launching an era of global trade and cultural exchange with the Far East.

In Conquering the Pacific: An Unknown Mariner and the Final Great Voyage of the Age of Discovery, he tells how it starts with a secret mission and includes mutiny, a shipwreck, and an African-Portuguese navigator whose story was almost lost to history.

In this episode of The Backdrop, Reséndez recounts the remarkable tale, discusses how he uncovered and pieced together details of the story and why the historic first was nearly forgotten.

9 - Kadee Russ on Supply Chain Bottlenecks and Inflation

9 - Kadee Russ on Supply Chain Bottlenecks and Inflation

October 19, 2021

From restaurants and grocery stores to construction companies and car manufacturers, the pandemic’s widespread effects on global supply chains have caused shortages, price hikes and layoffs. In this episode, UC Davis Economics Professor Kadee Russ discusses how supply chains got backed-up, and how these critical systems that produce and deliver products to consumers can be made more resilient.

8 - Karima Bennoune on Helping Artists, Cultural Workers Escape Taliban-Ruled Afghanistan

8 - Karima Bennoune on Helping Artists, Cultural Workers Escape Taliban-Ruled Afghanistan

September 8, 2021

With the end of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan and the quick takeover of that nation by the Taliban, advocates fear a terrible backslide in human rights and civil society there.

Karima Bennoune, a professor at the UC Davis School of Law, has been working with others to help get artists, musicians and other at-risk cultural workers out of Afghanistan.  She’s worked in the field of human rights, including in Afghanistan, for more than 20 years. And, she serves as UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.  Her recent book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism, was based on hundreds of interviews with people from 30 countries. Bennoune is currently a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School. 

In this episode, Bennoune discusses her work in the international effort to help evacuate vulnerable cultural workers from Afghanistan, religious fundamentalisms as political movements and how human rights advocates can move forward in a country ruled by the Taliban.

7 - Lewis Lawyer on Documenting the Patwin Language

7 - Lewis Lawyer on Documenting the Patwin Language

August 2, 2021

In what is now California, close to 100 indigenous languages were spoken before Europeans arrived.  According to UNESCO, most of the languages native to the Americas are critically endangered — many others are entirely extinct.

Linguist Lewis Lawyer, a UC Davis alumnus, has compiled the first-ever published description of one of those languages, Patwin — originally spoken in hundreds of communities in Northern California.

In this episode, Lawyer discusses the history of the language, how he came to publish “A Grammar of Patwin,” and how the language is making a comeback.

6 - Keith Watenpaugh on Helping Refugee Students Reclaim Their Right to Education

6 - Keith Watenpaugh on Helping Refugee Students Reclaim Their Right to Education

June 28, 2021

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.

5 - Rachel Teagle on Reopening the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum

5 - Rachel Teagle on Reopening the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum

May 24, 2021

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 reopens June 3, 2021, 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.

4 - Lizbeth De La Cruz on “Humanizing Deportation”

4 - Lizbeth De La Cruz on “Humanizing Deportation”

March 30, 2021

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.

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