Oklahoma’s gateway to humanities education, community conversation, and cultural experiences.



Oklahoma Humanities’ BrainBox podcast uses the humanities to discuss issues affecting American society and culture. Join some of Oklahoma’s most interesting and knowledgeable humanities scholars along with BrainBox host and OH Program Officer Chris Carroll to explore how history, literature, ethics, philosophy, and other humanities fields inform our understanding of current events and the human experience.

Email comments, questions, and ideas for future episodes to [email protected]


Why did it take nearly a century and a half for women to have the right to vote in America? We speak with one of the nation's leading scholars of the women's suffrage movement, Dr. Sunu Kodumthara of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, about key aspects of the movement. As we observe the centennial of the 19th Amendment in 2020, we discuss important figures in the movements both for and against women's suffrage, surprising controversies along the way, and the impact of women's voting rights on American democracy and society.

Share your thoughts about this episode here.


"How do we live in time? How do we mark it? How do we make it meaningful?"

In this episode we talk with cultural historian Dr. Alexis McCrossen about what New Year’s celebrations, advances in timekeeping technologies, conflicts over the meanings of weekends and holidays, and other aspects of time can tell us about American history and culture.

Share your thoughts about this topic here.


“The fact is, you can’t tell the story of country music without Oklahoma,” says our guest, Dr. Hugh Foley, a one-man encyclopedia of the state’s rich music history. In this episode, we discuss the huge importance and success of Oklahoma country music artists, and how country music reflects significant aspects of the state’s and the nation’s culture.  (So we basically take this podcast to the old town road and talk ‘til we can’t no more.)

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How has Oklahoma established perhaps the most liberal medical marijuana law in the nation? We talk with two of the key activists involved in creating and solidifying the legislation, Chip Paul of Oklahomans for Health and Allison Sims of Green Country NORML. In this episode we discuss the history of marijuana use and regulations in Oklahoma, the efforts to establish the state's medical marijuana program, and the current state of the industry and laws in Oklahoma.

Share your thoughts about this topic here.


How should we remember the largest and deadliest conflict in human history, now that we are 75 years away from D-Day and 80 years from the beginning of the Second World War? We discuss the most significant aspects and some lesser-known parts of what might better be called "The Second Thirty Years War" with historian Dr. Justin Olmstead of the University of Central Oklahoma.

Share your thoughts about this topic here.

S2 EP8: The Wide World of Sports & the Humanities

How do college sports affect, and reflect, American culture and society? Our guest, Dr. Amy Carreiro, is a sports historian who has taught at Oklahoma State University and the University of Tulsa. (She is also probably the nicest New England Patriots fan you’ll ever meet.) In this episode, we discuss the evolution of college athletics and how sports can help us understand larger issues in American society.

Let's chat! Share your thoughts about this topic here.

S2 EP7: Woody Guthrie: "A Shakespeare in Overalls"

Why should we still listen to Woody Guthrie’s music and a message over 50 years after his death? This #BrainBoxOK episode features a discussion with scholars and musicians who are keeping Guthrie’s legacy of social activism alive through the folk music tradition. We look at Guthrie’s childhood in Okemah, OK; the wide range of influences on his work; stories from his life of wandering; and his continuing impact on American culture.

Let's chat. Share your thoughts about this topic here. 

S2 EP6: Environmentalism & the Humanities

How can we use the humanities to think about environmental issues? This #BrainBoxOK episode features a discussion with the State Scholar for Oklahoma Humanities’ upcoming Smithsonian Water/Ways traveling exhibition, Dr. Mark Davies of Oklahoma City University. The episode looks at ethical, cultural, and philosophical approaches to what our guest describes as “the greatest challenge not only of our time but for all time,” to maintain a livable climate for all life on Earth.

Let's chat. Share your thoughts about this topic here.  

S2 EP5: "The most punitive justice system in the world"

How has Oklahoma become the world leader in mass incarceration?  What historical and cultural factors have led us here, and how does this affect almost every aspect of our society?  In this episode, we speak with Ryan Gentzler, Director of Open Justice Oklahoma and author of “Between You and Me,” a powerful article in the newest Oklahoma Humanities magazine analyzing Oklahoma’s criminal justice system and offering possible solutions.

Let's chat. Share your thoughts about this topic here. 

S2 EP 4: The Power of the American Presidency

Research indicates the first person American children recognize outside their friends and family is the President of the United States.  The president is commonly known as "The Leader of the Free World," and "The Most Powerful Man in the World."  Did the Founders intend to create an American presidency this powerful?  How did presidents acquire more power over the last 230 years, and how might the presidency change in the future?  Our guests on this episode, Dr. Aaron Mason and Dr. Eric Schmaltz of Northwestern Oklahoma State University, discuss the history of the American presidency, the evolution of presidential power, and some key examples of successful and failed presidencies.

Let's chat. Share your thoughts about this topic here. 

S2 EP3: Oklahoma's DNA

What’s in Oklahoma’s DNA, historically speaking, that can help explain the state’s unique culture, laws, politics, and identity? There’s no one better to discuss this than Dr. Bob Blackburn, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. In this episode, we’ll look at the state’s occasionally chaotic history, its approach to criminal justice, its outsized artistic impact, divisions between urban and rural communities, and many more aspects of what makes up Oklahoma’s DNA.

Let's chat. Share your thoughts about this topic here.

S2 Ep2: The Sixties, Fifty Years Later

We are now half a century away from the end of the 1960s, an era that in many ways still defines American life and culture. In this episode we talk with Dr. Ben Alpers of the University of Oklahoma Honors College about why the Sixties still loom so large in our culture and the meanings we can take from a re-evaluation of that pivotal decade.

Let's chat. Share your thoughts about this topic here.

S2 EP1: Alternative Oklahoma History

Why is it a felony to fly the first Oklahoma state flag? Why did a group of rural Oklahoma farmers turn to armed rebellion? Why was there a book burning at an Oklahoma City high school stadium? We’re kicking off Season Two of BrainBox by talking with one of Oklahoma’s coolest humanities scholars, Dr. Rachel Jackson, about alternative views of Oklahoma’s history to help us better understand the state today.

Let's chat. Share your thoughts about this topic here.

S1 EP10: The Victorian Era and Its Radicals

An exhibition sponsored in part by Oklahoma Humanities at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art focuses on rebellious artists and designers who reacted against the status quo of the Victorian Era. In this episode we talk with Dr. Pam Bracken of Southern Nazarene University and Bryon Chambers of OKCMOA about how this art movement gives us deeper insights into the Victorian Era and its connections with our own times.

Let's chat! Share your thoughts about this topic here.

S1 EP9: Game of Thrones & the Humanities

For a story that features dragons, killer zombies, direwolves, and magical priests, Game of Thrones has a lot to say about the human experience. In this BrainBox episode recorded in front of a live audience, we discussed the portrayals of gender, slavery, governance, religion, and more on the world’s most popular TV show by looking through the lens of the humanities. Two of Oklahoma’s coolest history professors, Dr. Becky Bruce and Dr. Sunu Kodumthara, joined host Chris Carroll for a great discussion and audience Q&A at Oklahoma Humanities’ 2018 Curiosity Fest for this special episode. The audio quality isn’t as good as our normal studio episodes, but we hope you will give it a listen #ForTheThrone.

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How does a war that ended 100 years ago still affect the world today? As we near the centennial of its conclusion on Nov. 11, First World War scholar and UCO history professor Dr. Justin Olmstead discusses the war's “long shadow” with BrainBox host Chris Carroll. We'll also find out what it means to be a "World War I Person" versus a "World War II Person."

Check out Dr. Olmstead’s books, The United States’ Entry into the First World War and Reconsidering Peace and Patriotism during the First World War.

Let's chat! Share your thoughts about this topic here.


Jad Abumrad is the founder and host of NPR’s Radiolab, and was the featured speaker at the 2018 Oklahoma Humanities Curiosity Fest. In this episode, Jad talks with BrainBox host Chris Carroll about the weird paths where his curiosity has led him through the world of the humanities. This episode also features a discussion with Oklahoma Humanities Executive Director Ann Thompson about the other cool Curiosity Fest programs.

Check out information about Curiosity Fest: okhumanities.org/curiosityfest

Let's chat! Share your thoughts about this topic here.


Hip Hop has influenced cultures from the Eskimo lands near the North Pole to all points south on the globe. Hear the Chair of OU’s Clara Luper Department of African & African American Studies, Dr. Karlos K. Hill, break down the history, impact, and meaning of hip hop with BrainBox host Chris Carroll. (Check out the fresh remix of our BrainBox theme song too.)

Learn more about Oklahoma’s Elemental Hip Hop Program: facebook.com/ElementalHipHopProgram

Let’s chat! Share your thoughts about this topic here.

BrainBox guest Dr. Karlos Hill provided this playlist of 13 essential hip hop songs, representing different eras, regions, and approaches to the art form. WARNING: Some lyrical content may be inappropriate for younger listeners.


How should we live our lives? Are human beings “condemned to freedom”?  What did the Zen Buddhist say to the hot dog maker?** BrainBox tackles these and other weighty matters with Rose State philosophy professor Toni Castillo, as we take a look at the relevance of philosophy to our everyday lives.

 (** "Make me one with everything.”)

Links to information discussed in this episode: 
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
The Daily Nous  
Voltaire’s short story The Good Brahmin
A discussion of the concept of wu wei
Judith Butler's concept of performativity
How to study philosophy through Rose State College

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Dr. Ryan Kiggins, a political science professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, talks with BrainBox host Chris Carroll about the history of the Internet and social media and their (not great) effects on American democracy.

Check out the new book The Political Economy of Robots, edited by Dr. Kiggins.

Let's chat! Share your thoughts about this topic here.

S1 Ep3: Ralph Ellison's Light Bulb Room

Oklahoma Humanities recently sponsored a series of talks in four cities across the state about race and social issues. The writings of Oklahoma's own Ralph Ellison were used at the programs to give context to the state of race relations today. In this episode, the Ralph Ellison Foundation's Executive Director, Michael Owens, talks with BrainBox host Chris Carroll about the legacy of Ralph Ellison and his relevance to discussions of race in America today.

Learn more about the Ralph Ellison Foundation.

Read Ralph Ellison's essay "What America Would Be Like Without Blacks."

Let's chat! Share your thoughts about this topic here.

S1 Ep2: #MeToo and the History of Women's Activism

In this episode, Dr. Sunu Kodumthara, a history professor at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, talks with BrainBox host Chris Carroll about the #MeToo movement and its place in the history of women’s protests and activism.  

In the wake of the allegations of sexual harassment and assault by film producer Harvey Weinstein in fall 2017, a movement originally inspired a decade earlier by activist Tarana Burke went viral, encouraging hundreds of thousands of women to share their own experiences. Dr. Kodumthara has deeply researched the history of women’s activism and protest, and she discusses key issues in the long, diverse, and ever-evolving struggle for equal rights for women.

Let's chat! Share your thoughts about this topic here.

S1 Ep1: Watergate

On the very first episode of Oklahoma Humanities’ BrainBox podcast, Dr. Ben Alpers of the OU Honors College talks with host Chris Carroll about why the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s is important to understanding American politics and culture today. Ben and Chris talk about Americans’ historical memory and the changing ways Americans have thought about Watergate, Richard Nixon, and the presidency itself in the decades since Nixon’s resignation. We’ll also find out why the suffix “-gate” gets attached to every other scandal since Watergate. 

Want to read more from Ben Alpers? Check out his blog at https://s-usih.org/author/ben_alpers/  

Let's chat! Share your thoughts about this topic here.