The Scene with Chantal Thomas

The Scene is an audio magazine covering an eclectic mix of politics, arts, culture, books and issues of the day. With host Chantal Thomas. Biweekly every other Wednesday, at 10:30am ET, on WRFI 88.1 Ithaca, 91.9 Watkins Glen.


Risa Lieberwitz on “Make Cornell Pay” and Academic Freedom: On October 4th, 2023, a group of Cornell faculty condemned Cornell University’s proposed “payment in lieu of taxes” to the City of Ithaca for falling grievously short of Cornell’s obligations to the public interest. Risa Lieberwitz, a professor at Cornell’s Industrial and Labor Relations School, places the MakeCornellPay campaign in the broader context of her analysis of the role of higher education in a democratic society, and how it has been weakened by the privatization of the university. Professor Lieberwitz also discusses the role of academic freedom in permitting faculty and student organizing around issues like MakeCornellPay and her work with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in defending academic freedom. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: October 4, 2023)

Desiree LeClercq on the Battle for Workplace Democracy at Starbucks: By 2022, workers at all three Starbucks locations in Ithaca, New York, had voted to unionize. By 2023, Starbucks had shut down every one of those locations. International labor law expert Desiree LeClercq breaks down the 2023 National Labor Relations Board proceeding that held the Ithaca store closures by Starbucks to be in violation of federal protections for organizing workers, and discusses the larger contexts in national and international worker rights. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: August 23, 2023)

Saida Hodžić on Critical Knowledges of Refuge: Saida Hodžić, a Professor in the Anthropology Department and the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at Cornell University, discusses her work reorienting the fields of asylum and refugee studies from studies of refugees to critical studies of refuge, and her spring 2023 symposium, Displaced, Detained, Undeterred: The Violence of Uncertain Refuge. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: August 9, 2023)

Judge Patrick Robinson on Reparations for Transatlantic Chattel Slavery: Judge Patrick Robinson, of the International Court of Justice, discusses a powerful and comprehensive new report on the scale of compensation owed for transatlantic chattel slavery; the forms that reparations should and should not take and how reparations might emerge in the wake of the demise of affirmative action as a deeper and more historically grounded justice movement; and how his experience growing up in Jamaica inspired his commitment to the cause. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: July 12, 2023)

Prachi Patankar on Making Connections in Movement-Building: Activist and philanthropic grantmaker Prachi Patankar talks about her lifelong relationship to justice work – connecting the LGBTQ+ and women’s justice commitments and causes she supports, through her international foundation work in South and Southeast Asia, with her upbringing in a family deeply involved in grassroots social change through anti-caste, feminist and peasant movements in rural India. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: June 28, 2023)

Dan Torop on the Science, Technology, and Art of Images: Photographer and art professor Dan Torop discusses his recent work in the exhibitions Falling Water and Three Rainbows, the science and technology that he has used in rendering images of the physical world, and the social and cultural histories that accompany and shape the tools of photography and other forms of visual rendering. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: May 19, 2023)

Elizabeth Anker on Paradox and the Claims of Theory: Literary and legal scholar Elizabeth Anker contends in her new book, On Paradox: The Claims of Theory, that faith in the logic of paradox has formed the cornerstone of left intellectualism since the second half of the twentieth century — and that reasoning through paradox has become deeply problematic, undercutting the commitments to social justice that should guide theory in the humanities and law. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: May 5, 2023)

Jill Lavetsky on Rendering Themes of Human Connection and Care in Her Art: Visual artist and educator Jill Lavetsky discusses her artwork reflecting on the subject of human connection through themes of motherhood, relationships, vulnerability, and tenderness, personified through the “tangling of bodies and the interlacing of limbs” in her watercolors, paintings and collages. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: April 21, 2023)

Bob Hockett on the Need for Better Bank Deposit Protection: Financial and economic regulation expert Robert Hockett of Cornell Law School returns to the show to discuss the Federal Deposit Insurance Completion Act of 2023, which contains his proposal for preventing future occurrences of the bank-run fueled collapse that led to the demise of Silicon Valley Bank and others. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: April 7, 2023)

The Future of the Cayuga Nation, Part II: Michael Sliger, attorney for Sachem Sam George and a clinical professor at Cornell Law School, discusses the larger context of the Halftown dispute over the leadership of the Gayogohó:nǫˀ (Cayuga) Nation, and the challenges of defending tribal sovereignty under federal Indian law. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: March 24, 2023)

The Future of the Cayuga Nation, Part I: Sachem Sam George discusses the challenge that he and other Gayogohó:nǫˀ (Cayuga) Nation elders have mounted to the leadership of Clint Halftown, currently recognized by the the Gayogohó:nǫˀ (Cayuga) Nation’s authorized representative; Attorney Michael Sliger provides additional background. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: March 10, 2023)

Judge Dennis Davis on the Prospects for South African Social Democracy: Judge Dennis Davis, legal scholar and jurist of the High Court of Cape Town, South Africa, discusses the reasons for the continuing and pervasive inequality and insecurity of today’s South Africa, almost thirty years after the country’s triumphant defeat of apartheid and embrace of democracy. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: January 27, 2023)

Luis Aguirre-Torres on the Urgency of Climate Justice: The former Director of Sustainability for the City of Ithaca, Luis Aguirre-Torres, discusses his work with the Green New Deal, the roadmap to achieving climate policy change that is equitable, and the centrality of transforming our economic models through expansion. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: January 13, 2023)

Bob Hockett on the Nation and Political Economy: Financial and economic regulation expert Bob Hockett returns to the show to discuss the recently introduced Congressional bill that he helped to create, the National Development Strategy and Coordination Act of 2022, and how to harness the public sector for progressive economic ends. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: December 30, 2022)

Ovidiu Marinescu on Finding Cosmopolitan Sounds for Contemporary Classical Music: Cellist, composer, conductor, and professor Ovidiu Marinescu discusses how he draws from influences across space and time – from 13th century Persia to 21st century New Orleans – to create musical experiences that are both sincere and imaginative. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: December 16, 2022)

Bob Hockett on the Economy Post-Midterm Elections: Financial and economic regulation expert Bob Hockett discusses how the November 2022 midterm elections might affect the Biden Administration’s ability to implement its economic policies; and how to interpret rising inflation in light of record corporate profits. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: November 18, 2022)

Al-An deSouza on Photography as Elegy: Artist and photography professor Al-An deSouza discusses their exhibition, Elegies of Futures Past, at Cornell University’s Johnson Museum of Art, and its meditations on family memory, colonial empire and diasporic identity. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: November 4, 2022)

Nathaniel Hendrickson on Collaborative Art in the Anthropocene: Artist and curator Nathaniel Hendrickson discusses how they are designing ways of making art that shift away from individualism and towards collaboration with human and non-human others, as a way of responding to ecological challenges of our time. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: October 21, 2022)

Loadbang on Making New Music: The members of New York City-based new music chamber group loadbang (Andy Kozar on trumpet(s), William Lang on trombone, Adrian Sandi on bass clarinet, and Tyler Bouque on baritone voice) speak about mixing and making new music from classical and contemporary genres and sounds. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: October 7, 2022)

Tawab Danish on Exile from Afghanistan: Human rights and constitutional law professor Tawab Danish speaks about life in his home country of Afghanistan following the seizure of power by the Taliban, and about the personal and communal upheaval brought about by regime change. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: September 9, 2022)

Leila Amineddoleh on the Restitution of Looted Art: Art and cultural heritage lawyer and professor Leila Amineddoleh speaks about the law and ethics of recovering looted art in situations ranging from British conquest to the Nazis. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: August 26, 2022)

Pete Myers on the Fight for Decent Work: The vote to unionize three Starbucks locations in Ithaca was followed by an abrupt shutdown. Pete Myers of the Tompkins County Workers Center discusses the Starbucks workers movement and gives updates on the local campaign for a living wage. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: August 12, 2022)

Steve Yale-Loehr on the Broken Immigration System: Immigration and refugee lawyer Stephen Yale-Loehr talks about the work he does to make a difference in the lives of immigrants and their families. Read about his collaboration, “Green Card Stories,” here. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: July 29, 2022)

Justice Albie Sachs on the Struggle for Liberation in South Africa: A freedom fighter and icon of the modern human rights movement, former South African Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs discusses coming of age under apartheid and his vision of “soft vengeance.” Listen to the episode here. (original air date: July 15, 2022)

Rachel Rebouché on the Post-Roe Era; Robert Hockett on Inflation: The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the focus of this week’s interview with Rachel Rebouché; next, Robert Hockett discusses the connections between current inflation, the pandemic, and inequities in economic globalization. Listen to the episode here. (original air date: July 2, 2022)

Eric Miller on the Tulsa Race Massacre Reparations Lawsuit: Eric Miller, one of the lawyers on the case for reparations for the victims of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, speaks about the case and the struggle for reparations. Read more about the Tulsa case here. Listen to the episode here. (o(Original air date: June 17, 2022)

Feedback? Suggestions for interview subjects? Please get in touch! [email protected].