Sounds of the Margins: Podcasting as Alternative Archives


In this episode, fellow podcasters and anthropologists, Frankie Younger and Dr. Anthony Jerry, share with us how they combined podcasting with community engagement in order to create podcasts as archival spaces for the voices of historically marginalized communities. This episode also includes discussions of building queer community, the future of podcasting, as well as curation practices.

Sounds of the Margins: Podcasting as Alternative Archives via Soundcloud

Guest Bios

Frankie Younger is a 31-year-old nonbinary individual who works as a Staff Accountant for San Diego LGBT Pride and is passionate about serving and being a part of the LGBTQ+ community. They have been involved in the community since they were 14 years old, joining Carlsbad High School's Gay Straight Alliance and receiving LGBTQ Acceptance training to teach staff how to deal with homophobia and transphobia in the classroom. As a youth, they were served by the North Coast LGBTQ Resource Center and later volunteered for them as an adult. At the University of California, Riverside (UCR), they participated in activities and events at the UCR LGBTQ Resource Center and interned for the Youth Citizen Narrative Project under Dr. Anthony Russell Jerry, which led to the creation of their podcast together, “Unconditional Love.” The podcast, which has since expanded its team, explores guests' coming-out experiences and can be found on most podcast platforms. Outside of their work and involvement in the LGBTQ community, Frankie enjoys music, with a focus on songwriting, recording, producing, and live performance, using their voice as their instrument of choice. They also have a passion for comedy and have dabbled in stand-up. Recently, they helped sing the national anthem at “Out At the Park,” a yearly Pride celebration at Petco Park in San Diego.

Anthony Russell Jerry is an Associate Professor at the University of California, Riverside. His work addresses issues of race, blackness, subject making, and the role of blackness within the modern conceptualization and experience of citizenship in the “Americas.” His research and writing also explore the impacts of im/migration, discrimination, and citizenship on first generation youth and youth of color in the U.S./Mexico border region. Professor Jerry is the founder and director of the Empathy Archive [Cultural Media Archive], a non-profit organization focused on providing digital platforms and vehicles for the public dissemination of youth voices and experiences. His first book, Blackness in Mexico: Afro-Mexican Recognition and the Production of Citizenship in the Costa Chica (2023), was published by the University Press of Florida as part of the New World Diaspora series.


This episode was created and produced by Alejandro Echeverria, with review provided by fellow podcasters Michelle Hak Hepburn and Nick Smith. Special thanks to Sharon Jacobs for her impeccable guidance. And to Anthony Jerry for sharing some of the narratives found in the Empathy Archive [Cultural Media Archive] which are showcased in today’s episode.

Theme Song: All the Colors in the World by Podington Bear


Alejandro Echeverria (AE) [00:00]: As anthropologists, podcasting has emerged as a popular tool in collecting and sharing research data and findings. Yet for others, podcasting represents a practice of social justice in which the voices of silenced groups are highlighted and archived.

[00:15] Hello and welcome to AnthroPod. The Podcast for the Society of Cultural Anthropology. My name is Alejandro Echeverria. And I’m your host for today’s episode, “Sounds of the Margins: Podcasting as Alternative Archives and Community Engagement. In today’s episode, we explore how two anthropologists are combining archival practices with community engagement by creating podcasts around the voices of historically marginalized communities. This episode is an open invitation to an ongoing conversation with fellow podcast hosts and colleagues, Frankie Younger and Anthony R. Jerry. Specifically, we will discuss some of the ways anthropologists are connecting queer individuals and creating a growing sense of queer community through podcasts. We will talk about how anthropological practice and scholarship are expanding on their podcast. We will explore how podcasts can be used to archive the voices of marginalized black, brown, queer, and working-class individuals. This includes considering the intersections of citizenship and empowerment through the lives of people who don’t fit neatly within conventional archives. Overall, this episode is a discussion of how anthropologists are involved in carving out spaces of validation and are recovering erased histories for future memory.

[01:29] Lastly, this episode is coming from a place of care and love for fellow friends as we collaborated in documenting the “Coming Out” experience for the “Unconditional Love” Podcast and the [Empathy Archive] Cultural Media Archive. Since we share the same personal and professional goals of connecting people together through podcasts, we have been having these conversations for a while. So it came naturally to invite fellow co-hosts to share some of our intimate exchanges on the impacts of podcasts within anthropology.

[01:59] Please be advised. While today’s podcast may have some strong language, we do not seek to alter the words of our guests in order to keep true to their perspectives. This includes some narrative segments found in both Unconditional Love and [the Empathy Archive] Cultural Media Archive. Please stay with us.

[02:14 Podington Bear—All the Colors in the World plays]

AE [02:45]: In order to begin with this conversation, we first have Frankie Younger to share with us their perspective of creating the Unconditional Love Podcast. Frankie Younger identifies as non-binary and is an anthropologist from UC Riverside. In our conversation, Frankie shared with us their involvement first began in collecting “coming out” narratives from queer youth for the Youth Citizenship Narrative Project at UC Riverside. From this project they developed an ethnographic poem dedicated towards queer youth, which later became the Unconditional Love Podcast.

[03:18]: Okay, then. Frankie, thank you for joining us today. It's a great pleasure to be talking to you again and talking more about Unconditional Love.

Frankie Younger (FY) [03:29]: Yeah, absolutely. Hi, I'm Frankie. My pronouns are they, them. I'm 30 years old, and I am one of the co-creators of the Unconditional Love podcast. And I'm happy to be here today.

AE [03:34]: Thank you, Frankie. And I would like to just open up the conversation and ask you, can you share a little bit with us? What is Unconditional Love, and what are some of the goals of this podcast?

FY [03:55]: The podcast Unconditional Love is a place where I have ordinary queer people from all walks of life. We have them come on and talk about their coming out story. It starts off with a very simple, open-ended question, and it's, “What is your coming out story?” That is the only through line question that we have. And the rest unfolds according to how the conversation goes. And the reason it's called Unconditional Love is because I had created previously with Dr. Jerry, who I consider one of my, well, yeah, my mentor. I had created an ethnopoem as a part of our mentorship program. Basically, I had done a project where it was like a mini podcast mixed with poetry, where I went and interviewed people about their coming out experiences and related it to my own. And it took a long time to make. I interviewed... This was a while ago, so I can't remember, but I believe about five or six different people's interviews were included in the ethnopoem. It was a spoken word. And the title of that poem was “Unconditional Love,” because I think at the time in writing it, I was still quite sore about my own coming out experience as a bisexual person. [6:02] This wasn't even touching on my non-binariness at the time. It was from a much more real, and I shouldn't say more real, but it was from a more raw place. That poem is really dark, and it's because I was taught as a child in a religious setting that God has unconditional love for everyone, for his creation. And then through life, I came to find out that the people who taught me that didn't actually reflect that. They didn't feel the same way. Their love was very conditional. And the conditions were that you had to be straight, and you had to be cis. And I thought that that was really hypocritical. And so that's kind of what that ethnopoem was about, was kind of the hypocrisy of what I was raised to believe. And then the actions that I observed when I did come out or was outed to members of the church. So, I think it was like a natural progression from that ethnopoem to when Dr. Jerry and I were like well, we have more interviews recorded, and we have more that we want to know about people. Let's keep this train rolling. I think it was a natural thing to call it Unconditional Love so that we could find out how people have found their own unconditional love. Like, is it possible to be queer and to exist in a positive way, in a way that isn't conditional? [8:17] Can we find people for who that's either a non-issue or it is a part of why they love us? Or just finding belonging is what I think it really boils down to—finding belonging in queerness. That's really it.

AE [08:39]: Frankie shared with us more in depth on how they came out to themselves. They stressed that they struggled coming to terms with their gender and sexuality. It was a devastating and difficult experience for Frankie, especially as a youth did not access to any positive queer role models or media representations. Likewise, Frankie identified being raised in a religious household as a major contributor to their sense of isolation. All which motivated Frankie to seek out other queer lives, stories, and a sense of queer belonging.

FY [09:11]: I carried that for a long time, like just a resentment of that entire period of my life. And I wanted to find out if I wanted to figure out at a certain point when I was in college, do other people have similar experiences? Do other people have dissimilar experiences? Like, much more positive experiences that I can then process and learn? Like, the world isn't so bad to everybody, at least. And again, I think that's a part of the podcast. It stems from my own curiosity of honestly, kind of a temperature check on where the world's at. And that's why I like to have people, we like to have people from all different areas of life to be able to compare those experiences. Even though I'm in a good place, I'm still always trying to find a sense of community and belonging. And so that's a part of Unconditional Love. The Unconditional Love is a part of that desire to find other queer people.

[10:33 Podington Bear—All the Colors in the World plays]

AE [10:43]: What have you learned from podcasting, the coming out process? Do you have any memorable stories that you hold dear to you?

FY [10:52]: Yeah. There isn't just one way to be queer. That sounds very “no duh” when you say it, but to actually engage with other people, it's great. I think one of the things that I take with me are just all of the various memories of recording. I think it's just so special to be able to have somebody share their past with you because it's so personal. And to have somebody do that, it really is a gift. I think, of your story also, like finding queerness at the swap meet—I love that. I can't even really put into words why I love that. I think it's sort of a different experience than I. However, it also illustrates that people try to find queerness where they can get it. They try to find belonging anywhere that it might be possible to. And the fact that you're able to find belonging and queerness at a swap meet is like, that's so nice. It's so nice. Now I want to listen to that episode again, actually, because it was a good one. It's really great to hear stories of queer joy, queer triumph. And even if there is darkness, it's just real. [12:53] It's such a real place. And I'm glad that people feel comfortable enough to be able to share that with us. It really is an honor. And I'm just like me. Like me? I'm just some guy, you know what I mean? And yet people are willing to share some really intense stuff. And so it makes me feel like this is a necessary space. This has gone beyond what I imagined, and this has now become really kind of a sacred meeting place.

[13:39 Podington Bear—All the Colors in the World plays]

AE [13:50]: And I think that really touches question that I have for you is, how do you envision or hope people use Unconditional Love? Have you received any positive feedback on it, or any comments about the podcast and the type of work that Unconditional Love does?

FY [14:08]: Yeah, I've received a few comments. It's funny, we haven't gotten any emails. It's all been verbal. It's been really positive. And it's not even like we even have the reach necessarily of some other podcasts out there. But it's not nothing either, simply because I do tell people about it, even if it's a little bit rough around the edges. That's also, I think, what makes it endearing. It's very real. And it's for a few reasons. One of is just kind of like, I had done a few podcasts before, but again, they were even more raw. But I really hope— and it seems as though people have gotten good things out of it—I hope that people get out of it what I get out of it, which is hope. I think that's the biggest thing is hope that even the people who do have darker stories, there has always been a trend positive. I imagine if it wasn't, then either they wouldn't be on the show or I'm not sure. But I've also heard people, I've heard one person, I should say one person, tell me, you're doing such important work. And I was so taken aback by that because I'm like, just the phrasing of that, really.

I was taken aback. It makes me feel a little more important than how I view myself as, again, just like this person who was kind of lonely and wanted to meet other queer people and wanted to hear what their lives were like. [16:19] How they grew up, how they found themselves, and just people's stories. But it seems as though even just in a story, just in a narrative, there's value in that, because people are very narratively based creatures. People really connect to stories, and our brain views whole swaths of information as stories, our own stories. We like to arrange things in such a way that it makes sense. And that way, more often than not, is in a narrative format. I'm really glad for the people who were able to respond positively to that and let me know because it just feels good. That's all. It feels good to know that the stuff that you do matters, and the stuff that you do has an impact. And you're not just throwing a sound file into the void of the Internet and nobody. And it's not received by anyone. It is. Again, it's not like a large audience, necessarily, but that's not really the point of it. I feel as though even if it reaches just one person, if one person listens, and if that person is me, so be it. If that person is me that it reaches, and I have a good time, and I get hope out of it, then the job is done. That's how I feel.

AE [18:10]: Yeah, that's how I feel, too. Sometimes it doesn't feel as important or grand, what we're doing, collecting queer narratives and coming out stories. But right as we released episodes or the files, I'm hoping. I don't know who's going to listen to it, but I just have the hope that they feel connected, and they know there's people out there who are just like them and that care for them. And we are trying to put our voices out there, our stories, so they could feel less lonely.

[18:43 Podington Bear—All the Colors in the World plays]

AE [18:52]: My last question is, can you share some of your views of any possible queer futures, and how do you envision the future for podcasting and the future for Unconditional Love? I know that's a lot.

FY [19:07]: That is a lot, but that's good. I want there to be a lot of futures. I want there to be more possibilities for connection and overcoming isolation and loneliness. Isolation is so devastating when you're already in a marginalized position in life. You need other people, regardless of who you are. So, as far as the queer futures are concerned, I just want there to be more hope among people. I want there to be more love. I don't think that queerness is a negative thing in any way. And I want people to, even if they're not in the community, I hope that by listening to queer narratives, even if you're outside of the community, that you can view us as human people, which is who we are, and sort of familiarize yourself with humanity in general. Just like getting in touch with what it means to be a person. It really is an anthropological endeavor.

Queer futures... In general, I really want people to put down their weapons, even in the community. Especially in regards to transness, as a hot button topic, even outside of the queer community, especially now, with all of these bills being proposed and then passed, and it's a very scary time. [21:23] It's a time of uncertainty. I want there to be more respect for queer people, for trans people. And even if you don't completely understand, for example, things like neo-pronouns, like people using It. It's pronouns. Ze/hir pronouns. Just because something is unfamiliar to you, it doesn't mean that it's bad. And it doesn't even mean that it's new, even if it's just new to you. I wish people were just a little bit more on board with things like that, which at the end of the day is like, well, from my perspective, it's so minimal. And as somebody who had to learn how to use they/them pronouns, and I am, my pronouns are they/them. Language is learned no matter what. And so I want people to be willing to—go along is not the right term—but to use language that they're not used to using. And I think that you'll come to find that it's simply a matter of practicing and habit. I want queer people to be safe. Isn't that sad? That's my base one, my base answer is that I want queer people to be safe in this country and in the whole world. [23:09] And then beyond that, I want us to be happy as well. I don't think that that's too much to ask.

The future of podcasting in general, I have no clue. It seems like everybody and their mother has a podcast these days. And that's not a bad thing. That's not a bad thing. That's not a bad thing. I think podcasting is great because it's so accessible. I won't say it's so accessible because it is one thing to make an audio recording, and as we both know, it's another thing to make an audio recording that is listenable. And to do that, you do need a certain amount of money. But I'm hoping the future of podcasting is more accessible financially because that shouldn't be a barrier to entry if you have something that you want to say. So more accessible podcasting financially for everybody, that would be good. I want to hear what people have to say. I won't have such a long commute anymore, but I'm still listening to podcasts at work. A lot of people are.

This isn't something I ever want to put down completely. So let's just be 100% on that.

AE [24:33]: All right, Frankie, that's all I have for you. And I want to say thank you for joining us today and sharing your personal life, and also your work and the stuff you're doing for Unconditional Love and for queer people.

FY [24:47]: Thank you so much for having me.

[24:50 Podington Bear—All the Colors in the World plays]

AE [25:02]: Now we have Dr. Anthony R. Jerry, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UC Riverside. He is the creator of the [Empathy Archive] Cultural Media Archive and Youth Citizenship Narrative Project. And we thank him for joining us today in sharing with us some of their perspectives towards podcasting.

AE [25:19]: All right, Anthony, can you share with us what inspired you to create the Cultural Media Archive? And why podcasting? Why were you considering podcasting and not some other form? Were there other considerations you had in mind?

Anthony Russell Jerry (ARJ) [25:35]: I think the podcasting part was sort of kind of a natural evolution to the project. I think the podcasting part came late. At the beginning, thinking about the Cultural Media Archive back in I mean, I started the Cultural Media Archive as a project back in like 2004, maybe 2005. And at the beginning, it was all about sort of providing what we called or what we thought of as providing a vehicle for youth voices. And we thought that sort of using anthropology, documenting issues that were important to youth or things that were sort of young people were experiencing—or really documenting the ways in which particular issues were first experienced by people at a young age—we thought were important and providing a vehicle for young people to be able to tell those stories, but also providing a sort of archive. Right. For lack of a better word. A place to make those narratives available. And so the podcasting then sort of came out of that project, I guess fifteen years later, as the podcasting craze kind of took over, I guess, and as the technology was sort of easier to set up your own podcasting, your own studio, like what we've got here. So the podcasting became later, and I think it was sort of a natural evolution to the vehicle. A vehicle for those voices.

AE [27:24]: Let’s listen to a clip from the Cultural Media Archive, under the theme “Police Brutality.” In this narrative, a young woman shares her person experience of police harassment in defining police brutality.

[27:35 Narrative Clip of “Police Brutality: 080418b” from Empathy Lab]

Speaker: I experienced police brutality with a friend. We were just minding our own business, parked up. The police didn't have no reason to bother us, but because they supposedly said that they got a call in the area that we were sitting there making noise. We weren't really doing anything, playing our phones in the car. They walked up and was like, “We need to to search the car. You guys need to get out.” And we like, “What's the probable cause? Who called you guys to tell you?” And they're like, “We can't release that information. The only thing we could tell you is that we got a call and you guys don't live here.” And we're like, “This is a public area. We have the right to be over here.” So they're like, “Well, technically, we have a right to search you. So, you guys have to get out the car.”

AE [28:33]: And what sort of projects do you have under the Cultural Media Archive?

ARJ [28:37]: So the Cultural Media Archive right now, I think what we were...we were doing a lot of what I call sort of nontraditional ethnographic forms. We were thinking about how to incorporate visual anthropology, thinking about how to create or put together what I call ethnographic audio essays—thinking about how it is that we can maybe move away from the traditional forms of publication but still sort of tell the story right. With the audio essay, it's sort of based on the written publication, but you add all of these different kinds of elements to really sort of elaborate. You create a background and you allow for, as you would say, to sort of add texture to the narrative. And I think what that does is it's still sort of formal and it's still offering a formal analysis, but at the same time, I think it's more attractive to folks who aren't necessarily going to spend an hour or two hours on an academic article. I know you spoke with Frankie and working with Frankie, we put together sort of working on ethnographic poetry and those kinds of things, but I think the biggest thing that...the biggest project that the Culture Media Archive is working on is what I call the Youth Citizenship Narrative Project. And so, right now, what we're doing is we're documenting first person narratives or oral histories on four themes that I believe are sort of key to young people's experiences in the US.

[30:26] And so those four themes, then, it's first generation citizenship. And I think that the reason why I consider this a youth issue is because I think this is something that young people first generation citizenship is something that young people are forced to deal with at an early age to make sense of their sort of place in a particular environment. And then the second theme is the first time hearing the “N” word. And again, the work that we're doing has shown that people hear this word for the first time when they're young people. And they have to make sense of this word when they're young. Whether they're Black or non black. Ultimately, either young people, black folks have been called the word or heard somebody else called the word, or non black folks have heard somebody say the word to somebody else. Right? Again, that's a youth issue, right? The third theme is coming out, and thinking about how it is that my own son and other folks that I know have had to deal with their sexuality at a young age, and not having folks in the environment to be able to help with that conversation or with that experience. Knowing, for example, that my own son, who's still a teen had to rely on his peer group of folks that didn't know anything about anything to figure out their own sort of questions and considerations about their own sexuality. All of those kinds of things, right? And so we're collecting narratives on that theme. And then I've added police brutality because growing up in Southern California, my own sort of friends and and other folks that I that I know in in the area that we grew up with, that that's a youth issue as well. [32:30] Being harassed, being disciplined, being trained in the streets by the police. And so collecting those four themes, then thinking about how it is that different that young people are burdened with different sort of social burdens, right? And how it is that those social burdens then impact our sense of ourselves later on in life and those kinds of things. So that's what we're doing with the Youth Citizenship Narrative Project. And so what we're creating then, is an online database. Well, I call it an archive. I know some of the archivists take issue with me using an archive for that particular project, but I really think it is an archive because what it does is it allows us to think about these experiences on a grander scale. But what I like to refer to it as a living archive because it's not an archive of a particular moment in time. There's no beginning and there's no end. The issues that I've chosen to deal with are issues that I think will continue to inform our world for years and years and years to come. So there's no end, I don't think, to this archive. So that's what we're doing then with the Culture Media Archive.

AE [34:01]: And what were some interesting things that you came across while doing this archive? What were some things that you learned? Or did these narratives sort of break down your assumption? Or how have people received the Cultural Media Archive?

ARJ [34:16]: I guess the last question there, people, I think, have received the Cultural Media Archive. It's been, I think, well received by folks. And I I think I think the idea of “content,” [quote, unquote] you know, sort of allows people to intuitively understand what it is that we're doing because they see the value of the first person narrative, of the oral history, and they see it. And we've all been sort of conditioned to understand or recognize the value of content. But I think beyond that, what it's really shown me is how it is that... How much we all share these experiences. And it's not sort of idiosyncratic. It's not sort of individualistic, right? And how it is that these experiences ultimately implicate and include so many people. So, for example, how many people are involved in one person's coming out experience?

AE [35:24]: A lot.

ARJ [35:28]: So many, right.

AE [35:30]: And it's ongoing.

ARJ [35:31]: Yeah. And it's ongoing. Right. So ultimately, then, when we talk about someone's coming out experience, we're not talking about them coming out. We're talking about all the people in their environment who either facilitated that process or resisted that process, or forced, in some cases, that process. For example, with the N word experiences. I realized that after telling my own story and thinking about my own experience and listening to other people and tell their experiences of the first time that they heard the N word, I realized how many people were implicated in that process. And so, for example, the first time that I heard the N word, at six years old, everyone else in the environment, all of the and I was the only black person in the environment at the time. I was a young person, and the person threw the word at me, and everybody else knew they'd already heard it. And right at that moment, that word, then as I reflected back, all of a sudden implicated all of these other people. Am I becoming? Am I sort of being labeled that word? And so through the project, I'm really learning about this sort of—or I guess, focusing more on the ways in which these things then create. They're sort of nodes that connect us to all of these other people around this particular issue. First generation citizenship is the same way. So an individual has to deal with the weight of their belonging or lack of belonging or whatever we want to call it. But it's all of the other people in the environment that enforce that belonging or not. So ultimately, then, someone's citizenship as their property doesn't belong to them. [37:31] It really depends on the other people in the environment that allow them to access that particular thing.

And so these four themes together have really allowed me to really sort of feel kind of the broader implications, the relational aspects of these particular things, these experiences. Yeah, lots of stuff. I've been thinking about it and trying to talk to people about the project in different ways. I mentioned archivists, and I've got some friends that are archivists and talking to them about the project, and they get caught up on the archive part. And then other folks, it's really allowed me to think about the project in so many different ways. Think about its relevance. For some folks, the documentation is the key part. But for me, as an anthropologist, I think, well, there's got to be a way then, to put that documentation to work. Documenting collecting is one thing, but then how do you let it live? How do you put it back into the public—so that's then you mentioned the podcasting part. I think that's really what motivated, I think, us I'll say us, to create the Unconditional Love podcast. Because collecting these narratives is one thing, but how do you then put them back out there in a way that makes sense, in a way that becomes relevant, in a way that does the work? And so building this archive and putting it online or doing the podcast and putting it out there so people then can somehow make use of the information, for me, is sort of the other side. It's like the second key.

AE [39:22]: I know. When we're doing Unconditional Love, I always think about sharing these narratives and connecting to those potentially isolated people and making them feel less alone, less confused or something like that—reassuring them that a lot of us are going through the same thing or similar things.

ARJ [39:46]: And I think that's the key. So if you go to the archive right now, we've got one hundred narratives, and I've collected probably about a hundred or so more. Not only is it a living archive in the sense that the issues that are being dealt with are alive and well in our society, but it's a living archive in that it's searchable, it's digital, but it's always expanding. And if you go to the archive and someone can listen to someone's coming out narrative that was collected back in, say, 2016, and then you can listen to someone's narrative that was collected in 2023 or 2021 or whatever it is. And it allows someone to see that their experience today is similar to someone's experience, say, ten or fifteen, however old the person was when they were telling their narrative. And so then it allows an individual to say, hey, I didn't make this up. I'm not the first person this is happening to. Even if it even if the weight of it makes you feel that way.

AE [40:55]: Yeah. It feels like you're that first one on the precipice, but I think that's a feeling that it makes you want to feel that way. And our work of doing Unconditional Love is sort of breaking that myth down.

ARJ [41:11]: Absolutely. So it turns that thing that is sort of felt and carried as sort of being the marginal. The excluded, the singular. It turns it into the shared. It turns it into the, for lack of a better word, the average, the regular, the norm. So when someone listens to the coming out narratives, all of a sudden, all of these narratives make it seem so much more regular than I think a lot of people feel. And it really allows us to see, I think, how much a part of our regular lives that queerness and these kinds of things are. I think, for example, the work that you're doing with your soundscapes and just the conversations we've had about how it is that your own presence in a place queers that place the park or the swap meet or a livestock auction. And I think we get so accustomed to thinking that those are certain places that exclude or where people don't belong, and listening to you and some of the other narratives sort of throw all of that out the window. It's all gone. When you hear those narratives.

AE [42:47]: It flips over the world upside down, no?

ARJ [42:52]: Absolutely. The N word, I think, is a good example, too. Because it's like when someone says the N word in public, we all gasp, like, as if the word is dying and it doesn't exist. But you listen to these narratives, and it turns out that I'm not the only one that heard this word—it's something that continues to live. It's something that is almost ubiquitous. It's something that is there all the time and always present. And the narratives uncover that. Especially when you listen to them together and you listen to other narratives. And so I think that's an important sort of impact. I know you were interested in community engagement, for example, and I think that's part of it right there. I think finding a way to put this information out there and to allow it to impact folks in different ways, I think is the community engagement aspect.

AE [43:52]:  Let’s play a striking narrative from the “Coming Out” theme of the Cultural Media Archive. Here a young man shares with us how he came out to his family and affirmed a queer identity.

[44:03 Narrative Clip of “Coming out: 022518” from Empathy Lab]

Speaker: It made me think, I'm like, “Maybe he won't trip. Maybe he means what he says.” So I was thinking about that all day. Fast forward to later that night, we were going to the gym, worked out. And then, mind you, the whole time, I was just thinking over and over again. I was like, should I tell him? Should I not? And on our way back, I just took a big deep breath, and then I was like, hey. So, yeah, that message is true. I'm dating a guy. And that guy doesn't even live in the same state. He's just tripping. But I'm like, “Yeah, I'm gay.” And then he took it very well. Andrew was just like, “You're my brother. I don't care. It doesn't matter if you're gay or not. I really don't care. I love you the same.” And ever since then, he's been super, super chill about it ever since then. And then after Andrew, the biggest hurdle I wanted to do next was my mom. But I was not ready for that at all.

AE [45:09]: What were some challenges that you faced in making the Cultural Media Archive or doing the podcasting? Did you run across any issues or doubts, concerns?

ARJ [45:23]: Not as many as one might think. I think the interesting thing is probably the biggest sort of barrier, right, is in some ways, the technology. In my mind, right, trying to figure out how to get all of the right technology, how to make it sound as good as professionally as possible.

AE [45:48]:Yeah, crisp.

ARJ [45:40]: Yeah, exactly. That's an issue, right? And being in the space that we're in, I mean, for example, you and I had to figure out the right time of day to be here, so the environment that we have would actually facilitate the best recording. And you can't always hear that in the production part of it because it's just something you take for granted. But that's been one of the things. But I've recently had a conversation with someone, I shared the project, and it turned out that maybe all of that stuff is sort of just in my own mind. Because they listened to some of the narratives that have been collected on our field recorders, and they were super excited about the sort of raw, gritty kind of in the field.

AE [46:37]: The texture.

ARJ [46:39]: Yeah, exactly. Like you say, the texture of it. So they were like, oh, it was great. You could tell they were at a sporting event, or you could tell they were outside and these kinds of things like that. This person actually said that that was a plus instead of a negative.

AE [46:53]: I remember that narrative. I think I listened to it.

ARJ [46:55]: Yeah.

AE [46:57]: You could tell they're at a basketball game.

ARJ [47:00]: Exactly. I guess that gives it a little more sort of realness.

AE [47:06]: Lets listen that texture from particular story found in the Cultural Media Archive found under “the N-word.” In this narrative a young man while at a basketball game retells his first time hearing the n-word as a young child in school.

[47:21 Narrative Clip of “N-word: 051117-2a” from Empathy Lab]

Speaker: Oh, man. Well, I always knew. I always like, I learned of its existence when I was, I would say around, I was around seven. One of my elementary school teachers taught us about the word. He didn't like to use it himself, but he had always told us that this is what a lot of white people back in the day used to call us. And he himself thought it was very disrespectful. So he would always tell us, “Don't ever use this word in a harmful way because that's not who you are. That's not what we are.” So it's just like, that's how I learned of it. Girl, calm down.

ARJ [48:04]: One thing. I mean, you didn't ask about this, but it just came to my mind. It's one thing that I've been trying to avoid, is sort of the sort of impulse to fall into the voyeuristic. So that idea of the real gritty, I think, gives people a sense that they're there, that they're sort of spying from a safe place, and I kind of want to stay away from that safeness of it all. There's a couple of ways that I do that. In these themes, I try to stay away from the sort of, as people would say, the trigger warning kind of thing. And so we use the words, and you'll hear a lot of F-slurs and N words and all of these kinds of things in the narrative because that's how people experience them. And it gives it a realness that I think some people really appreciate, and other people say, hey, I'm not comfortable with that. The other thing is trying to figure out how to present the narratives. And so I've talked to some people, and they say, hey, you need video, right? And I'm like, yeah, but video sort of does some work for you. It takes away the need for you to do the work yourself. And I know you've thought about this too, with your soundscapes, but when you have the video, you get lazy because you rely on what your eyes are seeing to make sense of what your ears are hearing. You take the video away, though, and now you have to rely on the sense of just hearing. And now it takes away some of the sort of stereotypical connections your mind might make, right? So now you have to ask yourself, is this person black like I think they are? Okay. This person identifies as Latinx, for example, but do they look like what I think they look like? [50:09] And that's, I think, a real question. Because now you have to accept what they're saying about hearing the N word, or you have to accept what they're saying about being surveilled and coming to terms with their first generation citizenship, right? You have to accept that someone, whether they present as cisgendered or whatever else, you have to accept their coming out narrative in a way that doesn't allow you to rely on the visual cues and those kinds of things. So trying to keep some of those things in mind as we figure out how to present the information in a way that doesn't let the listener off the hook and really forces them to do some of the sort of translational, some of that work. Right.

AE [51:00]Lastly, let's play a narrative from “the First-Generation” Theme. A young woman shares with us her experiences of growing up in a mixed status household and its impacts on her educational journey.

[51:12 Narrative Clip of “First Gen: 110716b” from Empathy Lab]

Speaker: Because of my citizenship, I feel like even language, I feel like I'm expected to make calls to doctors, to places, anything that they wouldn't necessarily do. Anything that requires English, I'm expected to do that. I feel like sometimes my mom feels like they don't take her seriously when she talks broken English. And that's why she makes me do those things. Or maybe when she needs to go to the bank, she's like, “Hey, can you talk to them?” Every time she has to go to LA for court or my brother has to go for court, I'm there with him helping him out because he's undocumented here. So that's one of the ways that I'm expected. But I'm also expected to be super educated and proper.

AE [52:08]I think one more question. I want to know what's your take on podcasting? How do you envision the future for podcasting? I know I throw a curveball at you.

ARJ [52:21]: Yeah, exactly. Because I'm not a content creator. I'm not in the world, right, of entertainment and these kinds of things. I wouldn't even pretend to have anything to say on sort of the future of podcasting. I think for me, again, the podcast becomes sort of an ethnographic tool. It becomes a way to collect information. It becomes a way to share information. And I think I appreciate it for that. I don't know how many people are going to listen to our Unconditional Love podcast. But I know it is a way to take some of the stuff that we do and present it in a particular form that is consumable, I guess, by some folks that wouldn't get this information otherwise. And even though we're doing the podcast, I think the conversations that we have are oftentimes some serious conversations. And that's the other part I was thinking about when you had asked me about when you had told me about the project you were doing, and then thinking about how to incorporate some of our podcasting into it. And I was thinking, for me, the important thing about our podcast is it's not about us. And I know so many podcasts are supposedly about a particular theme or about a particular thing, but what it really comes down to is it's about the people behind the microphones. It becomes about them. It's their story. It's them engaging with a particular thing, and so many people want that. But I think that's also what makes the podcast just like any other form sometimes, right? And so trying not to brand it and trying not to make it about us and our experiences, and, hey, we're the cool people behind the microphones. Now let us tell you what's what, right? I think for me, sort of avoiding that has been the exciting part about the podcast, and for me, it's something that will help me sustain the project. Listening to the voices that we help capture and being a part of that process, for me, is the important part.

AE [54:48]: I guess that's all I had for you. I want to know if you had any final thoughts you want to share or any future visions for Cultural Media Archive.

ARJ [55:01]: Yeah, I do have some future visions for the Cultural Media Archive, but I'll leave that alone for a little while. I will say if you're interested, if anyone's interested in hearing the narratives, they can check us out at That's the direct, sort of, URL, I guess, to the actual archive. I just want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me and allowing me to share the project and some of my thoughts. But I also want to make sure that you don't sort of fall into the background here because I think you've been an instrumental piece. A key part of the process, especially the podcasting, and collecting some of the narratives and those kinds of things. And so I've learned a lot through the process. So I just want to put that out there, and thank you for that, too.

AE [56:02]: No, thank you.

[56:04 Podington Bear—All the Colors in the World plays]

AE [56:15]: We hope you enjoyed today’s episode. To learn more about the scholars and voices you’ve heard in this episode, like the Cultural Media Archive, please visit our website at That’s c-u-l-a-n-t-h-dot-org. You’ll also find a transcript of this episode and links for all works mentioned.

[56:34]: Special thanks to Nick Smith and Michelle Hak Hepburn for reviewing this episode. And Sharon Jacobs for her impeccable guidance. And a warm thank you to fellow podcasters and friends.

[56:46]: My name is Alejandro Echeverria and thank you for listening to another episode of AnthroPod, the podcast of the Society for Cultural Anthropology. We hope to see you soon.

[56:55 Podington Bear—All the Colors in the World plays]