How do you pronounce Neanderthal? Is it “Neanderthal,” or “Neandertal”? Professor of Anthropology Bruce Hardy has the answer: If you want to sound like a real paleoanthropologist, drop the ‘h’.
“Even with the ‘h’ in there, it’s silent in German,” Hardy said during his appearance on the new podcast “The Kenyon Profcast.” “‘Thal’ means valley.” These are the kind of questions the host of the “Profcast,” Associate Professor of Spanish Daniel Hartnett, likes to ask to kick off his interviews — the sorts of things someone with no knowledge of the interviewee’s field might like to know. “If anything, my ignorance about different disciplines and different fields of study can be a bit of an asset,” Hartnett said, “because I want to ask the basic questions.”
The “Profcast,” a podcast featuring interviews with Kenyon faculty on their current research, began when Hartnett returned from his sabbatical, which he spent considering the next steps in his career. Hartnett always felt that while teaching was a crucial part of the lives of Kenyon professors, there was a lack of emphasis on the research that faculty take part in. Over a plucky string melody which he composed, Hartnett introduces each episode of the “Profcast” by explaining his interest. “Whenever I’m socializing with colleagues, I inevitably ask them questions about the fascinating research that they do,” Hartnett said. “I thought other people might be interested in our conversations too.”
The professors that Hartnett interviews come from a wide range of departments: chemistry, sociology and English, to name a few. The one discipline Hartnett has not quite figured out how to tackle is the fine arts, though he’s working on it — he plans to visit Professor of Art Greg Spaid’s studio in the coming weeks and record an interview for the current season. Much of the interdisciplinary nature of Hartnett’s subjects has to do with his broad definition of what counts as research in academia. “I think people see research as something that takes place in a lab,” Hartnett said. “What I do in my own professional life, writing, I refer to it as research, although I think a lot of folks — maybe in the Science Quad — might call it scholarship.”
The “Profcast” is one of a handful of podcasting projects to emerge from Kenyon, with others including “Kenyon Kernel,” a science podcast created by Sarah McPeek ’19, as well as “Drunken Feminism,” a podcast produced by a women’s and gender studies seminar in 2015. Although Hartnett serves as the interviewer and de-facto host of the podcast, he credits much of the podcast’s quality, which is recorded at the Wright Center in Mount Vernon, to its producer, Elizabeth Iduma ’20, who helps record and edit down Hartnett’s interviews.
Ultimately, Hartnett would like to make students, alumni and other faculty aware of the influential and relevant work each faculty member does in their field. He hopes to represent them as more than just teachers or caches of information.
“I’m not sure Kenyon students often know that the person who is teaching them about x, y, z is one of the people defining what x, y and z are at this moment,” Hartnett said. “They think of them as someone just passing on knowledge that’s created elsewhere — a lot of it’s created here.”