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The Gray Area with Sean Illing
The Gray Area with Sean Illing
Vox

The Gray Area with host Sean Illing is a philosophical take on culture, politics, and everything in between. We don’t pretend to... more

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Episodes

A veteran reporter on how to fix the news

Sean Illing talks with James Fallows, veteran reporter and editor at The Atlantic, about the state of political journalism in... more

05 Dec 2022 · 56 minutes
The end of social media

Sean Illing talks with technology writer and philosopher Ian Bogost about the state of social media — especially in the... more

01 Dec 2022 · 50 minutes
If society is making us sick, how can we heal?

Sean Illing talks with Dr. Gabor Maté, a physician, speaker, and bestselling author who has written on subjects like addiction,... more

28 Nov 2022 · 57 minutes
The free-market century is over

Sean Illing talks with economic historian Brad DeLong about his new book Slouching Towards Utopia. In it, DeLong claims that... more

21 Nov 2022 · 57 minutes
Your identity is a story you tell yourself

Sean Illing talks with neuroscientist Gregory Berns, author of The Self Delusion. Berns claims that the idea of a unified,... more

17 Nov 2022 · 45 minutes
James Carville unpacks the midterms

Sean Illing talks with veteran political strategist James Carville about the U.S. midterm elections — and the surprising success for... more

14 Nov 2022 · 49 minutes
Why are billionaires prepping for the apocalypse?

Sean Illing talks with technologist, media theorist, and author Douglas Rushkoff, whose new book Survival of the Richest explains how... more

10 Nov 2022 · 55 minutes
Today's Republicans were made in the 1990s

Sean Illing talks with Nicole Hemmer, history professor and author of the new book Partisans. In it, she gives a... more

07 Nov 2022 · 1 hour, 6 minutes
Yuval Noah Harari thinks humans are unstoppable

Sean Illing talks with Yuval Noah Harari, historian and bestselling author, about how humanity came to be the dominant species... more

03 Nov 2022 · 1 hour, 2 minutes
Dying with dignity

Sean Illing talks with reporter Katie Engelhart, whose book The Inevitable is an up-close look at physician-assisted dying. This is... more

31 Oct 2022 · 59 minutes
Finding hope in a world on the brink

Sean Illing talks with Jonathan Lear, a psychoanalyst and philosopher, about his new book Imagining the End: Mourning and Ethical... more

27 Oct 2022 · 58 minutes
The new American Reconstruction

Sean Illing talks with historian and author Peniel Joseph about his new book The Third Reconstruction, which argues that the... more

24 Oct 2022 · 1 hour, 7 minutes
Is America losing its religion?

Sean Illing talks with Reza Aslan, scholar of religions and author of multiple bestselling nonfiction works, to discuss the state... more

20 Oct 2022 · 54 minutes
How we got to January 6th

Sean Illing talks with war reporter and New Yorker contributing writer Luke Mogelson about his new book The Storm Is... more

17 Oct 2022 · 59 minutes
Neil deGrasse Tyson gets political

On this first episode of The Gray Area, Sean Illing talks with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who takes on many... more

13 Oct 2022 · 58 minutes
Introducing The Gray Area

Resist certainty, embrace ambiguity. The Gray Area is a philosophical take on culture, politics, and everything in between with host... more

11 Oct 2022 · 1 minute
Best of: Why America's obsession with rights is wrong

In this episode originally recorded in July 2021, Vox's Zack Beauchamp talks with Columbia law professor Jamal Greene about his... more

06 Oct 2022 · 59 minutes
A GOP insider on why the party went Trump

Sean Illing talks with former Republican strategist Tim Miller about his new book Why We Did It, which offers an... more

03 Oct 2022 · 1 hour, 1 minute
How do we fix the harm we cause?

Vox’s Marin Cogan talks with Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg about her new book On Repentance And Repair, which is about how... more

29 Sep 2022 · 50 minutes
A new philosophy of love

Sean Illing talks with Carrie Jenkins about her new book Sad Love, and her call to rethink the shape and... more

26 Sep 2022 · 1 hour,
The politics of 'Yellowstone'

Into It is a new podcast from Vulture and New York Magazine hosted by Sam Sanders. Each week, Sam and... more

23 Sep 2022 · 26 minutes
How society sexualizes us

Vox’s Emily St. James talks with the celebrated author and trans activist Julia Serano about her new book, Sexed Up.... more

22 Sep 2022 · 56 minutes
The Parent Trap

Sean Illing talks with Nate Hilger, economist, data scientist, and author of the new book The Parent Trap: How to... more

19 Sep 2022 · 1 hour, 1 minute
40 Acres: Reaching reconciliation

What good are piecemeal reparations? From Georgetown University, where school leadership once sold enslaved people, to Evanston, Illinois, where redlining... more

15 Sep 2022 · 34 minutes
40 Acres: The old Jim Crow

Why slavery? Marxist scholar Adolph Reed argues that Jim Crow — not enslavement — is the defining experience for Black... more

12 Sep 2022 · 48 minutes
40 Acres: $14 trillion and no mules

Paying the price. One of the typical questions asked during conversations about reparations is how to pay for them. Fabiola... more

08 Sep 2022 · 50 minutes
40 Acres: The original promise

Fabiola Cineas talks with Nkechi Taifa, the founder and director of the Reparation Education Project, about the history of the... more

01 Sep 2022 · 55 minutes
What Clarence Thomas really thinks

Sean Illing talks with Corey Robin, author of a recent article — as well as a 2019 book — about... more

29 Aug 2022 · 1 hour, 4 minutes
Even Better: Don't call it a budget

Every Thursday in August, you'll hear Even Better on Vox Conversations, a special series focused on helping people live better... more

25 Aug 2022 · 47 minutes
The quest for authenticity

Sean Illing talks with Skye Cleary, philosopher and author of the new book How to Be Authentic. The book is... more

22 Aug 2022 · 51 minutes
Even Better: Setting your boundaries

Every Thursday in August, you'll hear Even Better on Vox Conversations, a special series focused on helping people live better... more

18 Aug 2022 · 44 minutes
Your gut instinct is usually wrong

Sean Illing talks with former Google data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of Don't Trust Your Gut. Seth argues that the... more

15 Aug 2022 · 55 minutes
Even Better: Workplace equality 2.0

Every Thursday in August, you'll hear Even Better on Vox Conversations, a special series focused on helping people live better... more

11 Aug 2022 · 53 minutes
Why we're still postmodern (whatever that means)

Sean Illing talks with Stuart Jeffries, journalist and author of Everything, All the Time, Everywhere, about why postmodernism is so... more

08 Aug 2022 · 58 minutes
Even Better: Activism when you don't know where to start

Every Thursday in August, you'll hear Even Better on Vox Conversations, a special series focused on helping people live better... more

04 Aug 2022 · 48 minutes
The Supreme Court's power grab

Sean Illing talks with Harvard Law professor Nikolas Bowie about the U.S. Supreme Court's recently-concluded term, which produced landmark opinions... more

01 Aug 2022 · 1 hour, 5 minutes
How middlemen took over the economy

Vox's Emily Stewart talks with Kathryn Judge, professor at Columbia Law School and author of the new book Direct: The... more

28 Jul 2022 · 1 hour, 6 minutes
The necessity — and danger — of free speech

Sean Illing talks with Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan about his new book The Paradox of Democracy, which he... more

25 Jul 2022 · 56 minutes
Hacking coral sex to save the reefs

Vox's Benji Jones talks with marine biologist Hanna Koch about her team's efforts to repopulate the planet's coral reefs through... more

21 Jul 2022 · 55 minutes
The price of keeping secrets

Sean Illing talks with professor Michael Slepian, author of The Secret Life of Secrets. This new book explores secret-keeping behavior... more

18 Jul 2022 · 52 minutes
Does China control Hollywood?

Vox's Alissa Wilkinson talks with Wall Street Journal reporter Erich Schwartzel about Red Carpet, his new book detailing the myriad... more

14 Jul 2022 · 1 hour, 4 minutes
Steve Bannon is still at war

Sean Illing talks with Jennifer Senior, the Pulitzer-winning staff writer at the Atlantic, about her recent piece on Steve Bannon... more

11 Jul 2022 · 50 minutes
The Fortress of Solitude saw it all coming

Vox's Constance Grady talks with writer Jonathan Lethem about his 2003 work The Fortress of Solitude in this recording from... more

30 Jun 2022 · 39 minutes
The Philosophers: Stoic revival

Sean Illing talks with author Ryan Holiday about Stoicism — a philosophy with roots in ancient Greece and which flourished... more

27 Jun 2022 · 1 hour, 5 minutes
Station Eleven's creator on the end of the world

Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos sits down with Patrick Somerville, the creator and showrunner of HBO's critically-acclaimed series Station Eleven, adapted from... more

23 Jun 2022 · 52 minutes
The racist origins of fat phobia

Vox’s Anna North talks with Da'Shaun Harrison, the activist, author, and 2022 Lambda Literary Award recipient for their book Belly... more

16 Jun 2022 · 54 minutes
The fight for Ukraine — and democracy

Sean Illing talks with historian and author Timothy Snyder about the war in Ukraine, the stakes for Europe and the... more

13 Jun 2022 · 54 minutes
The war on trans people

Vox’s Emily St. James talks with Chase Strangio of the ACLU about the assault on the rights of trans Americans... more

09 Jun 2022 · 55 minutes
Michael Ian Black on being a better man

Sean Illing talks with comedian and author Michael Ian Black about his book A Better Man, in which Black writes... more

06 Jun 2022 · 56 minutes
Carmen Maria Machado's haunted feminine

Vox's Constance Grady talks with writer Carmen Maria Machado, whose 2017 short story collection Her Body and Other Parties was... more

02 Jun 2022 · 42 minutes
The rise and fall of America's monuments

Jamil Smith talks with Erin Thompson, professor of art crime and author of Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of... more

26 May 2022 · 50 minutes
The Philosophers: America's philosophy, with Cornel West

Sean Illing talks with Cornel West about the American philosophical tradition known as pragmatism. They talk about what makes pragmatism... more

23 May 2022 · 1 hour, 1 minute
Why accidents aren't accidental

Vox’s Marin Cogan talks with author and journalist Jessie Singer, whose book There Are No Accidents asks us to completely... more

19 May 2022 · 53 minutes
Rethinking the "end of history"

Sean Illing talks with political scientist and author Francis Fukuyama, whose ideas about the "end of history" and the ideological... more

16 May 2022 · 1 hour, 2 minutes
Anita Hill finally gets even

Vox's Fabiola Cineas talks with Anita Hill, whose testimony during the 1991 confirmation hearings for now-Justice Clarence Thomas highlighted the... more

12 May 2022 · 1 hour, 1 minute
Elites have captured identity politics

Sean Illing talks with Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, whose new book Elite Capture is about how the wealthy and powerful co-opt political... more

09 May 2022 · 58 minutes
The moral dangers of dirty work

Vox’s Jamil Smith talks with journalist and author Eyal Press about "dirty work" — the jobs Americans do that, as... more

05 May 2022 · 59 minutes
Did the sexual revolution go wrong?

Sean Illing talks with author and Washington Post columnist Christine Emba about whether or not we need to rethink sex.... more

02 May 2022 · 58 minutes
Who decides how to conserve nature?

Vox's Benji Jones talks with Indigenous leader Kimaren ole Riamit about the role of Indigenous peoples in the conservation movement.... more

28 Apr 2022 · 56 minutes
The Philosophers: Loneliness and totalitarianism

Sean Illing talks with professor Lyndsey Stonebridge about the philosopher Hannah Arendt, author of The Origins of Totalitarianism. Arendt might... more

25 Apr 2022 · 1 hour, 3 minutes
The War in Ukraine, Explained — Part 4: The future of Europe

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is one of the biggest and most confusing political events of our lifetimes. We aim to... more

21 Apr 2022 · 1 hour, 4 minutes
Michael Lewis on why Americans distrust experts

Sean Illing talks with writer Michael Lewis about why it is that Americans are so good at producing knowledge, but... more

18 Apr 2022 · 58 minutes
The War in Ukraine, Explained — Part 3: The nuclear threat

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is one of the biggest and most confusing political events of our lifetimes. We aim to... more

14 Apr 2022 · 56 minutes
The case for regret

Sean Illing talks with writer Daniel Pink about his book The Power of Regret. They discuss why regret can be... more

11 Apr 2022 · 51 minutes
The War in Ukraine, Explained — Part 2: Sanctions

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is one of the biggest and most confusing political events of our lifetimes. We aim to... more

07 Apr 2022 · 1 hour, 1 minute
The spirituality of parenting

Sean Illing talks with the author and self-described mystic David Spangler about parenting as a spiritual enterprise, where the parent... more

04 Apr 2022 · 49 minutes
The War in Ukraine, Explained — Part 1: Why did Putin go to war?

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is one of the biggest and most confusing political events of our lifetimes. We aim to... more

31 Mar 2022 · 1 hour, 1 minute
The Philosophers: Resisting despair

Sean Illing talks with author and professor Robert Zaretsky about the French philosopher, novelist, and journalist Albert Camus (1913–1960). Though... more

28 Mar 2022 · 56 minutes
What happened to American conservatism?

Vox’s Jamil Smith talks with Charlie Sykes — journalist, author, stalwart "never Trumper," and a founder and editor-at-large of The... more

24 Mar 2022 · 1 hour,
The limits of forgiveness

Sean Illing talks with philosopher Lucy Allais about the nature, power, and limits of forgiveness. They talk about the role... more

21 Mar 2022 · 52 minutes
The madness behind The Method

Vox's Alissa Wilkinson talks with cultural critic and author Isaac Butler about his new book, The Method. They discuss the... more

17 Mar 2022 · 1 hour, 8 minutes
David Cross is disappointed in you guys

Sean Illing talks with comedian David Cross, well-known for his decades-long stand-up career, as well as for his role on... more

14 Mar 2022 · 49 minutes
Author Kiley Reid on why we read novels

Vox's Constance Grady talks with Kiley Reid, author of the critically-acclaimed novel Such a Fun Age. In this episode, which... more

10 Mar 2022 · 47 minutes
The conversation about guns we're not having

Sean Illing talks with firearms journalist Stephen Gutowski, founder of TheReload.com. They discuss the major barriers, principles, and blind spots... more

07 Mar 2022 · 1 hour, 4 minutes
Why does middle school suck?

Hillary Frank, the creator of the podcasts The Longest Shortest Time and Here Lies Me, talks with journalist and author... more

03 Mar 2022 · 1 hour, 5 minutes
Russia's war with Ukraine — and reality

Sean Illing talks with journalist, author, and Russian disinformation scholar Peter Pomerantsev about the invasion of Ukraine. Recorded on Friday,... more

28 Feb 2022 · 39 minutes
Robert Glasper on why Black Radio is back

Vox’s Jamil Smith talks with musician Robert Glasper, four-time Grammy-winner, about the release of his new album Black Radio III.... more

24 Feb 2022 · 57 minutes
Could we lose delicious foods forever?

Vox's Benji Jones talks with food journalist and author Dan Saladino, whose new book Eating to Extinction documents rare foods... more

17 Feb 2022 · 1 hour, 6 minutes
What Don't Look Up is really about

Sean Illing talks with David Sirota, the journalist turned Oscar-nominated co-writer (with director Adam McKay) of the film Don't Look... more

14 Feb 2022 · 1 hour, 1 minute
Democracy in crisis, part 2: The two-party problem

Just how worried should we be about the future of American democracy? This is the question at the center of... more

10 Feb 2022 · 58 minutes
Why we can't pay attention anymore

Sean Illing talks with the author Johann Hari about his new book Stolen Focus, which explores what's happening — and... more

07 Feb 2022 · 1 hour, 4 minutes
Democracy in crisis, part 1: Ross Douthat isn't too worried

Just how worried should we be about the future of American democracy? This is the question at the center of... more

03 Feb 2022 · 1 hour, 6 minutes
Pod Save the Democrats

Sean Illing talks with Dan Pfeiffer, former senior advisor to President Obama and co-host of the Pod Save America podcast,... more

31 Jan 2022 · 1 hour,
A Yellowjackets creator spills his guts

Vox's Constance Grady talks with Bart Nickerson, the co-creator of new TV show Yellowjackets, which airs on Showtime. Yellowjackets follows... more

27 Jan 2022 · 44 minutes
A scientist's case for "woo-woo"

Sean Illing talks with David Hamilton, a scientist and former research chemist turned author, about his new book Why Woo-Woo... more

24 Jan 2022 · 1 hour,
Imagine a future with no police

Vox's Fabiola Cineas talks with author, lawyer, and organizer Derecka Purnell about her recent book Becoming Abolitionists. They discuss Derecka's... more

20 Jan 2022 · 1 hour, 5 minutes
Novelist Lauren Groff on the other Matrix

Vox's Constance Grady talks with novelist Lauren Groff about her latest book, the National Book Award finalist Matrix, before a... more

13 Jan 2022 · 47 minutes
Are we living in a simulation?

Sean Illing talks with philosopher David Chalmers about virtual worlds and the nature of reality, and other topics that stem... more

10 Jan 2022 · 1 hour, 8 minutes
Rep. Jamie Raskin on living through the unthinkable, twice

Vox's Dylan Matthews talks with Congressman Jamie Raskin about the tragic loss of his son Tommy, who was twenty-five years... more

06 Jan 2022 · 57 minutes
Best of: Why fascism in America isn't going away

Vox's Sean Illing talks to Yale professor and author Jason Stanley about why American democracy provides such fertile soil for... more

03 Jan 2022 · 49 minutes
Best of: Clint Smith III on confronting the legacy of slavery

Vox's Jamil Smith talks with author Clint Smith III about his book How the Word Is Passed, which documents the... more

30 Dec 2021 · 1 hour, 1 minute
Best of: We need to talk about UFOs. Seriously.

Vox's Sean Illing talks with international politics professor and amateur ufologist Alex Wendt about why it's time to start thinking... more

27 Dec 2021 · 1 hour, 3 minutes
Chris Bosh on winning (and losing everything)

Vox’s Jamil Smith talks with NBA legend Chris Bosh about his basketball career, his youth, and his legacy. They discuss... more

23 Dec 2021 · 58 minutes
The cult of toughness

Sean Illing talks with political commentator and author David French about modern conservatism and masculinity. They discuss the divergence between... more

20 Dec 2021 · 1 hour, 6 minutes
Is ethical investing a scam?

Vox's Emily Stewart talks with Tariq Fancy about whether or not "socially responsible investment" is a scam. Fancy is a... more

16 Dec 2021 · 57 minutes
The good life is painful

Sean Illing talks with psychologist Paul Bloom about his new book The Sweet Spot, and whether it's necessary to experience... more

13 Dec 2021 · 55 minutes
The father of environmental justice

Vox's Jamil Smith talks with Dr, Robert Bullard, a pioneer in the crusade for environmental justice, about his more than... more

09 Dec 2021 · 50 minutes
Jill Lepore on Elon Musk's imaginary world

Sean Illing talks with historian Jill Lepore about her new podcast: The Evening Rocket explores Elon Musk and the new... more

06 Dec 2021 · 1 hour, 3 minutes
E.O. Wilson's plan to save the world

Vox's Benji Jones talks with the celebrated entomologist, biologist, and naturalist E.O. Wilson. They talk about Wilson's sixty-plus years as... more

02 Dec 2021 · 56 minutes
Workers of the world, stay home!

Sean Illing talks with Anne Helen Petersen and her partner Charlie Warzel about their new book, Out of Office: The... more

29 Nov 2021 · 1 hour, 2 minutes
How progressives get back in the game

Sean Illing talks with Briahna Joy Gray, the former national press secretary for the Bernie Sanders 2020 Presidential campaign, and... more

22 Nov 2021 · 1 hour, 3 minutes
The highs and lows of the "creator economy"

Vox's Rebecca Jennings talks with Taylor Lorenz, tech culture reporter for the New York Times, about the creator economy: what... more

18 Nov 2021 · 49 minutes
Why Chris Hayes thinks we're all famous now

Sean Illing talks with Chris Hayes, author, commentator, and host of All In With Chris Hayes on MSNBC. They discuss... more

15 Nov 2021 · 1 hour,
The stories soul food tells

Vox's Jamil Smith talks with Caroline Randall Williams, academic, poet, and co-author (with her mother, Alice Randall) of Soul Food... more

11 Nov 2021 · 51 minutes
The paradox of American freedom

Sean Illing talks with Sebastian Junger, journalist, filmmaker, and author of the recent book Freedom. Informed by his experience hiking... more

08 Nov 2021 · 57 minutes
Nonbinary parenthood

Anna North talks with Krys Malcolm Belc, nonbinary transmasculine parent, essayist, and author of the memoir The Natural Mother of... more

04 Nov 2021 · 1 hour,
John McWhorter, the anti-antiracist

Sean Illing talks with John McWhorter, linguist, New York Times columnist, and author of Woke Racism: How a New Religion... more

01 Nov 2021 · 1 hour, 6 minutes
The overwhelming, invisible work of elder care

Vox culture contributor Anne Helen Petersen talks with Liz O'Donnell, an advocate for working caregivers and the author of Working... more

28 Oct 2021 · 1 hour, 3 minutes
How Big Tech benefits from the disinformation panic

Sean Illing talks with Joe Bernstein of BuzzFeed News about online disinformation and what — if anything — can be... more

25 Oct 2021 · 58 minutes
Fannie Lou Hamer and the meaning of freedom

Vox's Jamil Smith talks with Keisha Blain, associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Until... more

21 Oct 2021 · 59 minutes
What the internet took from us

Sean Illing talks with writer and New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul about her book 100 Things We've... more

18 Oct 2021 · 58 minutes
Trapped inside with Susanna Clarke's Piranesi

Vox's Constance Grady talks with novelist Susanna Clarke about her latest book, Piranesi, before a virtual audience for the Vox... more

14 Oct 2021 · 49 minutes
Bryan Stevenson on the legacy of enslavement

Vox's Jamil Smith talks with attorney, author, and activist Bryan Stevenson about the newly expanded Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.... more

07 Oct 2021 · 1 hour, 3 minutes
What's your status?

Sean Illing talks with writer Will Storr about his new book The Status Game, and its central idea: all human... more

04 Oct 2021 · 57 minutes
Is there a hack for enlightenment?

Vox's Sigal Samuel talks with scholars and authors Wesley Wildman and Kate Stockly about their book, Spirit Tech: The Brave... more

30 Sep 2021 · 1 hour, 5 minutes
Fighting a world on fire with fire

Sean Illing talks with climate scholar Andreas Malm about his book How to Blow Up A Pipeline. They discuss the... more

27 Sep 2021 · 1 hour, 2 minutes
Revolutionary Love

Vox's Jamil Smith talks with author, activist, and filmmaker Valarie Kaur about her memoir See No Stranger and the Revolutionary... more

23 Sep 2021 · 57 minutes
How to make meaning out of suffering

Vox’s Sean Illing talks with David Wolpe, senior rabbi of the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, about the role and... more

20 Sep 2021 · 56 minutes
Ken Burns's latest on The Greatest

Vox's Jamil Smith talks with acclaimed documentary filmmakers Ken and Sarah Burns. The father-daughter team discuss their latest documentary about... more

16 Sep 2021 · 1 hour, 7 minutes
The road from 9/11 to Donald Trump

Sean Illing talks with national security reporter Spencer Ackerman, author of the new book Reign of Terror. They discuss the... more

13 Sep 2021 · 1 hour, 8 minutes
The Gray Area with Sean Illing
Bryan Stevenson on the legacy of enslavement
The Gray Area with Sean Illing
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Description

Vox's Jamil Smith talks with attorney, author, and activist Bryan Stevenson about the newly expanded Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. They discuss... more