August 24, 2020

Q&A With Hosts of NPR's "Throughline"

Q&A With Hosts of NPR's "Throughline"

History as you’ve never heard it.

Rund Abdelfatah & Ramtin Arablouei are co-hosts of NPR’s “Throughline,” a weekly podcast about the history missing from conversations around current events. Make sure to reserve your spot for their live presentation of the podcast at Listen Up presented by Lumina Foundation and Plews Shadley Racher & Braun. 

Tell us about “Throughline:” how it started and how you would describe it to someone who has never heard it.
Rund: Ramtin and I started brainstorming this idea while we were producers on “How I Built This” & “The TED Radio Hour.” The show originated from frustration around current events and the lack of
historical context that was being provided for them.

The essence of the show as we’ve always imagined it, is a history podcast that helps you understand the present world better. That includes talking to historical experts, weaving in archival tape, voice-overs, sound design and music. What we are always striving to do is to represent as many different experiences as possible, because I think that draws people in who might otherwise feel excluded or left out of the conversation.

How do you select the historical context you include for each episode?
Ramtin: We put ourselves in the place of the audience, where we approach the story with awe, curiosity and our own intellectual – but also emotional – journey into a story. There will always be someone that feels we could have taken a slightly different angle. But we just try to make sure to challenge our assumptions as much as possible so that we are not allowing our own biases to blind us.

What can you tell us about the virtual event with WFYI and what you all have planned for it?
Ramtin: Our goal is to weave together a few stories from our past episodes using all the pieces that are included in the show: sound design, music, et cetera. We won’t go on to what each piece of the story is going to be, we don’t want to give anything away, but hopefully it’s fun. When this opportunity came up, we were really excited.

Rund: The show has a lot of elements that will translate really nicely to that kind of live show
experience. So we’re excited to be able to share that with your audience.

Must-listen episodes, according to the hosts:

Rund’s pick: “American Police”
“It puts the history of the United States through a prism of racial hierarchy. And I think it makes it so much bigger than one police officer or one community, one city. It really reveals those hidden structures that are hard to see when you’re in the day to day.”

Ramtin’s pick: “Conspiracy”
“The conspiracy theory episode basically takes a look at the origin of conspiracy theories in our culture, in the United States, from the beginning. I think it humbles us and allows us to really understand that all of us are susceptible to the conspiracy-like thinking or believing misinformation.”