Article, Environmental Justice, Arts & Culture, Social Justice, Community

A New Season of Below the Radar

March 06, 2023

In the fall of 2018, we launched Below the Radar. At the time it was a budding podcast with the intention to amplify ideas at the intersection of politics, art and social change. In the four years since, Below the Radar has grown to be a lively platform for sharing knowledge that has now surpassed its 200th episode!

As we’ve reached this milestone, we have also moved to a new seasonal release format consisting of two 15-week seasons; one in the Spring and one in the Fall. The 2023 Spring season has already kicked off with four episodes that explore varying topics from racial justice, community building, colonialism, and regional storytelling. Join us this season to hear from guests such as June Francis, Sirish Rao, Lama Mugabo, and more.

Art and the Spatial Logics of Colonialism — with Marianne Nicolson

The new season launched with our 200th episode featuring artist and activist of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nations, Marianne Nicolson. In the episode, our host Am Johal and Marianne talk about the ways she uses her art practice to uphold Kwakwaka’wakw philosophies and resist settler-colonial fictions about Indigenous peoples. 


“They're not as overt about it anymore as they were in the Indian Act, but the actual actions are the same. The real idea, and it really bothers me, is that Indigenous peoples become Canadianized, and absorbed, especially economically. So our positions on land and stewardship are [still] tremendously challenged, because we are not being encouraged to uphold our tradition of stewardship. Our stewardship instead is being transformed back to us mirrored back to us as economic benefit. And then we're being told this is stewardship.” – Marianne Nicolson.


Marianne also describes how her work challenges the colonial practice of treating Indigenous artmaking traditions as resources to be extracted.




Racial Justice, Community Building, and Data — with June Francis

The conversations on social justice continued with professor, researcher, and advocate for anti-racist and decolonial practices, June Francis. Her episode explores racial justice, community building, and data. June discusses how gathering data about racism can be an important step toward equity and racial justice. 

“Hogan's Alley was a place where Black people thrived in the city as best they could in a segregated city. Vancouver was a segregated city—I say that a second time. And we know that because there's still covenants in North Vancouver, and other places, saying Asians can't live there, et cetera. So we need to understand that Vancouver had the headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan in the city. So this is not a place that welcomes Black people. Black people have never been welcomed in Canada in any particular way. There was a lot of strife. And so people formed this community, not only Black people, but there was a multi-racial community where people were actually trading with each other, but sharing this common experience of exclusion. And the Black community's epicentre  was around where we now call the Hogan's Alley block.” – June Francis


June also describes her work in connecting Blacks and African Diasporic communities with institutions and legislators to enact systemic change.




Mixing Paint with Giant Cricket Bats — with Sirish Rao

For the third episode of the new season, we chatted with Sirish Rao, Co-Founder of the Indian Summer Festival and new Director of Public Engagement and Learning at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Am and Sirish talk about the creation of art organizations that celebrate local and regional storytelling.

“And so with our festival [...]we were able to give mainstage spaces for artists who would normally not get that and say, ‘look [...] this should be the headliner,’ not, you know, opening for somebody else. And I think that shift is slow to come. And festivals like ours are extremely necessary to do this small and furious work of defending that. But I'm also increasingly very aware that there are huge amounts of infrastructure and capital that belong to the public, from public institutions and public organizations that should be more reflective of who lives here, and who the people of this land are from a long, long time ago, and from now.” – Sirish Rao


Sirish also explores his involvement in community festivals, and spoke about his past work as a Himalayan mountain guide and a book publisher in India.





Supporting Indigenous Self-Determination Through Research — with Cliff Atleo

In our latest episode, Cliff Atleo, a scholar and professor in SFU’s School of Resource & Environmental Management, explores his past work with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Iron Dog Books. Cliff and Am consider how to navigate institutional and governmental bureaucracy in matters of Indigenous governances, resource management, and research.



“It was the weirdest experience to go through a research ethics process, where you have non-Indigenous people critiquing your application, making sure that you're not exploiting your own Indigenous community. And I always tell this example where I was interviewing an aunt of mine. My aunt and uncle ran a fishing boat, and I was really interested in getting perspectives of women relatives of mine that were working in the fishing industry. And I remember the first time I sat down with my aunt, and I passed over the three-page consent form. And I’ll never forget the look that she gave me. It was just—it was like this weird, like ‘nephew, what the heck is this?’”  – Cliff Atleo





Below the Radar continues in March with our upcoming episode featuring Dr. Svitlana Matviyenko, a Professor of Critical Media Analysis in the Simon Fraser University School of Communication. Svitlana talks about her experiences living in Ukraine over the past year, documenting a rising militarization and being attentive to the social changes imposed by war.

“So this whole writing, this witnesses was my resistance to militarization. And half year later, I was going everywhere and asking for weapons. And, you know, that kind of change is a scary change. But this change is happening. And I think this change, which might be something that many people wouldn't take very easily and still kind of hold on to their pacifism, I think we should be very attentive to this change. And understand its real meaning, that the person like I was ready to go and take the weapon. The person is a person like I actually now, asks for more weapon, more help to Ukraine” – Dr. Svitlana Matviyenko


Am and Svitlana also discuss the asymmetrical cases of misinformation between Ukraine and Russia, as well as how the invasion has merged her research interests of media and cyberwar.


The following episode features artist, filmmaker, and Simon Fraser University School of Contemporary Arts (SCA) professor, Nadia Shihab who discusses the inspiration and meaning behind her films. Then we’re joined by Erika Latta, Assistant Professor in Theatre Performance at SFU SCA, who explores her appreciation for boundary-pushing in the arts and her visions for SFU’s theatre program. Our last guest for the month of March will be Yani Kong who is a writer, editor, and instructor of contemporary arts, aesthetics, and critical theory.

Future episodes this season will feature Joni Low (Independent curator and Vancouver based writer), Kari Grain (lecturer, researcher, and education specialist), NiNi Dongnier (a choreographer, dancer, and interdisciplinary artist), Brenna Bhandar (author and associate professor at the Allard Law community of University of British Columbia), Michael Clague (former head of the Carnegie Community Centre), and Lama Mugabo (community organizer and planner), and more!

Thank you to the listeners

From all of us at Below the Radar, we would like to thank you for listening and engaging with the vibrant ideas and voices we’ve had on the show. We look forward to continuing to share the work of artists, activists, community members, and researchers across disciplines, and we’re excited for the conversations that are yet to come. 

Keep up with our newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram page to not miss an episode of this season.


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