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Ferment Radio

Ferment Radio

By Super Eclectic
Welcome to Ferment Radio, a podcast series on micro and macro transformations. Fermentation can incite social action, spark creativity, and bring surprising new tastes to our lives. My name is Aga Pokrywka and I invite you to join us in a conversation on living interconnectivities: from macro to micro, from societal to cellular, and from global to personal.
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#28: Macro consequences of micro processes (a conversation with Colleen C. Myles)
For centuries, fermention has had an important role in the evolution of agriculture. But the idea that fermentation can be treated as a paradigm for understanding place-based change is one steap ahead. The 28th episode of Ferment Radio explores how land use and management is related to the production and consumption of fermented beverages —a research area Colleen C. Myles calls “fermented landscapes.” That term functions as a metaphor for understanding landscape transformation and the co-evolution of humans, agriculture, and microbes. Together with Colleen C. Myles, Associate Professor at Texas State University, rural geographer, and political ecologist, let's zoom out, look for the sweet spot where micro and macro meets, and think how fermentation is intertwined with placemaking.
September 21, 2022
#27: The war on bugs (a conversation with Jessica Maccaro)
We use them all the time. Metaphors allow us to make sense of things we cannot comprehend. What metaphors do we commonly use to understand microbes? Bacteria are bugs, and we certainly are at war with them. Such a stand contributes greatly to our antagonistic relationship with microbes. But, can we revalue our relationship with microbes through metaphors? Could metaphors help us reconsider habits and economies related to our co-existing with bacteria, particularly something as serious as anti-microbial resistance? In this episode of Ferment Radio, we look for answers to these questions with Jessica Maccaro, a PhD candidate at the McFrederick Lab, University of California, Riverside, working with insects, fungi, and science communication.
August 30, 2022
#26: Recipe for controversial yogurt (with Cecilia Westbrook)
In 2015, while in grad school, Cecilia Westbrook made yogurt out of her vaginal flora, as an experimental side-project. A journalist friend of hers wrote about it, and the article got published on Vice. It immediately went viral, spawning a number of copy-cat publications that re-edited the original text but never added more content, let alone created space for dialogue or reflection.This situation caused problems with her academic institution, since at the moment she was undergoing PhD studies, and triggered a landslide of misogynistic remarks towards her, many of which can still be found online. For these reasons, she had to refuse to comment on the harmless, yet (for some people) controversial yogurt.Now, 7 years after, Ferment Radio has the great pleasure to learn more about that particular yogurt,  and the avalanche it caused, directly from Cecilia Westbrook.
July 09, 2022
#25: Can we make fermentation less white? (with Miin Chan)
Last year, an article titled "Lost in the Brine!” was published on the Eater. The author, Miin Chan, aka Dr Chan, says what most people don’t want to admit: while the fermented foods industry evangelizes products rooted in global, often East Asian, traditions, its most visible faces are predominantly white.As a white host of a fermentation-related podcast myself, whose guests, so far, are predominantly white, I had felt the urge to comment on that issue already for a while. Reading this article assured me about the urgency of this topic, and that Miin is a perfect guest to share her views with us. Miin Chan is a medical doctor, researcher, ferment activist, and food literacy advocate. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne researching the effects of fermented foods on chronic disease via the gut microbiota. Miin Chan’s research is scientific and evidence-based, and it aims to demystify some of the most overstated narratives about fermentation. She is also critical, from a scientific and diverse perspective, about how the food industry capitalizes on fermentation. In this episode of Ferment Radio, we will focus on this problem, and how the fermentation industry exists within a system that is inherently racist. 
June 10, 2022
#24: Breaking the taboo around bacteria and vaginas (with Giulia Tomasello)
Vaginal flora consists largely of Lactobacillus. This particular type of bacteria can affect everything, from developing certain diseases to fighting infections, and from getting pregnant to having a miscarriage. If the vaginal microbiome is imbalanced, there’s a risk for developing vaginosis, a type of vaginal inflammation. Some sources say that 75% of people with a vagina will experience vaginosis at least once in their lifetime. Moreover, people from more disadvantaged groups are more likely to experience it. Why is then vaginal health still a taboo topic?In this episode of Ferment Radio, we ask this and many other questions to Giulia Tomasello, a designer committed to innovating vaginal healthcare with biotechnology and interactive wearables.
September 30, 2021
#23: Afro futuristic conscious cooking (with Njathi Kabui)
Food is something quite peculiar. On the one hand, it is very intimate: we put it in our mouths, it nourishes our bodies, and  we share it with the people we love. On the other hand, big corporations capitalize from it, turning it into a global political product. Njathi Kabui (Chef Kabui), a Kenyan-born, US-based organic chef is committed to raising awareness around food, and therefore restoring broken relationships with the land, with one another, and with ourselves. He is also an anthropologist, urban farmer, food activist, and strategist. He calls his approach “Afro Futuristic Conscious Cuisine”, and it’s anchored to the belief that colonialism not only took people’s beliefs, land, and culture, but it also stripped them of their culinary practices. How can we ferment our way out of this?
September 23, 2021
#22: Microbes and other shamanic beings (with César E. Giraldo Herrera)
Missionaries and explorers who arrived in the Americas in the 17th century interpreted what they encountered through their own viewpoint and interests. In this way, local shamanism was mostly understood in reference to spirits and souls; concepts that were present at that time in medieval Europe. But what would happen if we attempted to comprehend shamanism differently?The work of César Enrique Giraldo Herrera, a biologist, anthropologist and a PhD in Social Anthropology, questions our views on Amerindian shamanism and its colonial interpretation. He proposes that there is a much closer relationship between shamanic practices and microbiology than we could think. César wrote a book about this fascinating topic. It’s called “Microbes and Other Shamanic Beings”, and he’s our guest on the 22nd episode of Ferment Radio.
August 30, 2021
#21: Turning ocean problems into possibilities (with Mari Granström)
Did blue-green algae bloom ever make you hesitate to take a dip in the sea during a hot summer day? It is common to hear that these algae produce toxins that can be harmful for humans and animals. But, do we know why they actually bloom? What kind of ecological impact do they imply? In our conversation with Mari Granström, co-founder of Origin by Ocean, we talk about the mysteries of blue-green algae and the possibilities of turning a global problem into a sustainable solution.
August 06, 2021
#20: Play that fungi music! (with Tosca Terán)
In this episode, we celebrate one year of Ferment Radio by listening to mushrooms. We all know what their fruiting bodies look like and how some of them taste. But we might have no idea how they sound, especially when it comes to the part of the mushroom that is invisible to our eyes. How can we listen to things we cannot see? This is one of the questions we ask Tosca Terán in this episode of Ferment Radio. Tosca is an interdisciplinary, ecofeminist, human holobiont whose work is located somewhere between art, ecology, and craft. As part of the duo Nanotopia, she takes biodata from non-human organisms as mushroom’s mycelium and translates it into music. 
July 30, 2021
#19: Microbes, bodies, and politics (with Stefanie Fishel)
We need new words and concepts to explain the complexity of the world. Metaphors have the potential to be a productive tool to motivate social and political change. Could metaphors contribute to creating reality rather than just explain it? What about using the human body and its microbial life as a metaphor for interconnectivity and global relations? In this episode of Ferment Radio, we talk about these issues with Stefanie Fishel. She’s a lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, and the author of “The Microbial State: Global Thriving and the Body Politic”, a book about human bodies and their metaphorical relationship to global politics.
June 28, 2021
#18: Spirulina for all (with Anya Muangkote)
Food production is one of the major drivers of global environmental change. Spirulina, a kind of cyanobacteria, has a big chance to benefit the environment by requiring less land and water to produce the same amount of protein and energy as livestock. You might know it as a popular superfood supplement that comes in green, blueish pills, or powder.  But, aside from that, what is actually spirulina?In this episode, together with Anya Muangkote, a multidisciplinary designer and design researcher from Bangkok, we discuss her work on domestic spirulina cultivation. Anya´s open-source tools and knowledge propose a sustainable way of self-sufficiency that challenges the current modes of production and consumption.
May 28, 2021
#17: It’s alive!!! (with Adrien Rigobello)
Many fermented foods and beverages seem gross. What exactly is this feeling of disgust? Where does it come from? Is it the fear of something unfamiliar? Something that goes beyond our globally standardized ways of being, behaving, and feeling?Join us in a conversation with Adrien Rigobello, a Ph.D. researcher working with Fungal Architectures at the Royal Danish Academy and founder of thr34d5, a medialab for social resilience. In this episode, we not only talk about what’s gross, but also about xenodesign, engaging with the other, designing with living systems, and using kombucha and mushrooms as raw materials.
April 16, 2021
#16: The unpredictables (with Sarah Lloyd)
There’s a group of microorganisms that have been on the planet for about 600 million years. They’re unicellular, but have many nuclei; they are brainless, but can find their way through mazes that have inspired urban planners. They’re small, very hard to categorize, and they feed on bacteria. Who are they?Our guest on Ferment Radio’s 16th episode is Sarah Lloyd, a scientist who studies these fascinating organisms called slime molds. For the last 10 years, Sarah has done breakthrough research on slime molds, which she actually collects within two kilometers from her house, in the eucalypt forest, in northern Tasmania. 
March 23, 2021
#15: Waiting for time to do its job (with Andrew Gryf Paterson)
The kitchen is a space that many people might not think is worth sharing. It’s a place known for messy preparations, and not exactly perfect results. In this episode, cultural producer, educator, and independent researcher Andrew Gryf Paterson “spills his guts” and talks about his hybrid practices, which include bioart experiments, food cultures, and his everyday life. They all come together in his own kitchen, at home in Helsinki. It’s Kitchen Lab is an arena for collaboration between humans, time, and bacteria. 
February 26, 2021
#14: There are no simple solutions for complex problems (with Aviaja Hauptmann)
Fermented meat is seen by many as something closer to a dead body than to a pickle. This kind of fermentation practices have often been subjectively represented as something dangerous, cruel, or unecological. But, is it really so? Tune into the 14th episode of Ferment Radio and join us in a conversation with Aviaja Hauptmann, a microbiologist and Greenlandic Inuit who researches microbiomes of fermented foods native to Greenland. Together, we discuss the dietary and social prejudices around traditional Inuit meat consumption and its preservation. 
February 18, 2021
#13: How much of our survival depends on consumption? (with Zayaan Khan)
Microbes might be small, but they play a big role in the work of Zayaan Khan, an ecological artist based in Cape Town, South Africa. Tune into Ferment Radio and find out more about  Zayaan’s life story through her ever changing relationship with food: from a childhood obsession with sweets to fermenting wild rosemary to produce hair conditioner, and more. As usual, the conversation is not just about food or microbes, but about life, consumption, and the systems behind them.
January 29, 2021
#12: Sourdough is a snapshot of a moment (with Karl de Smedt)
This is a perfect episode to listen to when you’re baking your own bread. You’ll find answers to questions you always wanted to ask about your sourdough starter, but there was no one to ask. Did my sourdough go bad? How often should I feed it? Here, we also talk about how old sourdough starters are; who actually owns them, and why sourdough cultures are like cities. Tune in and join our conversation with Karl de Smedt, the sourdough librarian from Puratos Sourdough Library in Belgium.
January 19, 2021
#11: Gentle transformations (with Eva Bakkeslett)
Ferment Radio bid farewell to 2020 with an exciting episode about transformations inspired by micro worlds. Join us in a conversation with Eva Bakkeslett, an artist exploring social change through gentle actions and subtle mind-shifts. In this episode, Eva tells us about the time and conditions needed to create change, and shares captivating stories about culture starters and the mysterious beauty of northern Norway in December. Tune into Ferment Radio!
December 30, 2020
#10: Pure, or not pure (with Stephanie Maroney)
Different ideas about food and eating can actually change our understanding of society, and have a strong influence on how we live our lives. Fermentation questions purity: it needs bacteria to grow, and in our society, bacteria are seen as something unclean. Can fermentation, which goes against separation, control, and boundary-making, help create a healthier society? Our guest Stephanie Maroney –a scholar of feminist food studies– has a great deal to say about how science uses colonial practices in order to find solutions to western problems. Particularly with the extraction of “ancestral microbes” from Hadza people, an indigenous ethnic group in north-central Tanzania.
November 29, 2020
#9: Thinking of difference, differently (with Deboleena Roy)
Neuroscience, molecular biology, feminist science and technology studies, feminist theory, postcolonial studies, and reproductive justice movements. This all comes together in the work of feminist scientist Deboleena Roy. In the 9th episode of Ferment Radio, we will ponder about change inspired by microscopic organisms. From that perspective, evolution seems to be more of a collaboration than competition; taxonomic classifications of organisms are less hierarchical and more rhizomatic; and humans are not the center of the world, as it is commonly thought. You can learn more about this in Deboleena’s book "Molecular Feminisms: Biology, Becomings, and Life in the Lab".
November 13, 2020
#8: Fermenting Feminism (with Lauren Fournier)
What happens when we put together fermenting and feminism? In this conversation with Lauren Fournier –a writer, curator, video artist, and filmmaker based in Toronto– we reflect on the different meanings of these powerful words. Our conversation is built around Lauren’s article “Fermenting Feminism as Methodology and Metaphor”.Fermentation is preservation, transformation, and collaboration. That is, Fermentation is political.This episode starts a new series on Ferment Radio that will focus entirely on feminist issues and fermentation. It’s our sisterhood act of solidarity with the ongoing protests in Poland against a law that prohibits abortion. 
October 31, 2020
#7: Fermenting our way out of trouble (with Maya Hey)
Fermentation keeps things from going bad! Let’s face it, microbes and humans will always be connected. But, can we actually apply this fermentation paradigm to society? In the 7th episode of Ferment Radio, we continue our conversation with Maya Hey. Together, we reflect on the impossibility of controlling something that is inseparable from us, fermentation as a feminist practice, and the cultural appropriation of food recipes.Tune into for another exciting episode!
October 07, 2020
#6: I wish I had superpowers to see microbes (with Maya Hey)
The 6th episode of Ferment Radio is the first part of a conversation with Maya Hey, a scholar and PhD candidate at Concordia University researching fermentation and feminist theory. From chemistry labs to culinary kitchens, organic farms, and food markets, her work is a constant search to answer questions around embodied knowledge, collective ethics, and interspecies thriving. In our conversation, we discuss the bigger picture of fermentation; fermentation as a selfless practice, and the impossibility of understanding the microbial part of ourselves. 
September 20, 2020
#5: Interspecies collaborations (with Mindaugas Gapševičius)
On Ferment Radio’s 5th episode, we will engage in a conversation about “collaborations with bacteria”. Together with Mindaugas Gapševičius –an artist, facilitator, and curator based in Berlin and Vilnius–  we will reflect on creating the right environment for bacteria to thrive. Whether it’s a pocket-size toolkit or community-based biolaboratory, Miga is definitely a specialist in establishing collaborative exchanges with bacteria.
September 02, 2020
#4: Healing the inanimate with bacteria (with Christina Stadlbauer)
Christina Stadlbauer is an artist working in the interstices between art and science. Her work pivots around life; animals, plants, and bacteria. On the 4th episode of Ferment Radio, we engage in a conversation around one of her long-term projects entitled Kin Tsugi Transformations. Kin Tsugi is a traditional Japanese technique of repairing broken ceramics with Urushi lacquer and gold or silver. This method is rooted in a worldview in which everything is impermanent. Based on this concept, Christina proposes to repair objects through healing, rather than gluing, and with living microorganisms instead of aggressive substances.
July 29, 2020
#3: Microbial time and space travels (with Mateusz Kędzior)
On Ferment Radio’s 3d episode, we learn about microorganisms as our ancestors, time vehicles, and superheroes! Find out about this and much more in a conversation with Mateusz Kędzior, a Postdoctoral Fellow with Betül Kaçar’s research group at the University of Arizona, United States. Somewhere between sci-fi and astrobiology’s hi-tech, this team tries tries to find an answer to seemingly basic questions, like: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? The answers seem to be encapsulated in microorganisms. 
July 08, 2020
#2: Microbes as social actors (with Salla Sariola)
Salla Sariola is a social scientist at the University of Helsinki, Finland. In this episode, we will talk about her research on microbes as social actors, and the implications of antimicrobial resistance, which happens, for example, when microorganisms are immune to antibiotics. Salla is also passionate about fermenting vegetables and dairy, as well as permaculture composting. 
June 24, 2020
#1: Fermentation On Wheels (with Tara Whitsitt)
Tara Whitsitt is a nomadic artist and educator whose passion for growing food and teaching fermentation inspired the grassroots educational project “Fermentation on Wheels”. Tara has been driving across the USA for over 7 years, sharing starter cultures, the history and science of fermentation, as well as countless stories that she has gathered on the road. Together with millions of microbes, she is now rooted in the Kittatinny Valley, New Jersey.
June 09, 2020