US Centre staff in Ballpark podcast discussion

The Ballpark

Podcasts and video explainers

The Ballpark is the LSE Phelan US Centre’s media centre encompassing our podcast and video explainers.

I recently visited the US and 'vox-popped' some of the ideas I'd taken from show with people I met. Very gratifying to feel so well informed on my travels, for once!
Thanks for making these available. I live in a small town in Australia and would never get exposure to these ideas without free-to-access resources like these.

The Ballpark is your chance to go beyond the headlines and get the facts, figures, quotes, and context to form a more informed view on the United States.

We also post Ballpark interview podcasts where we spend some more time on an interview, topic or discussion that we cover in regular episodes of The Ballpark.


Latest Ballpark podcast

Will the US remain the world’s superpower? | LSE iQ and The Ballpark podcast -21 May 2024

A shining city on a hill. America the beautiful. The United States has long been mythologised as the land of dreams and opportunity. And since the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s it has been undisputedly the most powerful nation on earth. But is it a fading force? The idea of an America in decline has gained traction in recent years and has, of course, been capitalized on by President Trump. Is America’s ‘greatness’ under threat?

In this episode of LSE iQ, a collaboration with the LSE Phelan US Centre’s podcast, The Ballpark, Sue Windebank and Chris Gilson speak to LSE Phelan US Centre Affiliates Elizabeth Ingleson and John Van Reenen, and Ashley Tellis from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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Climate Change: America and the World Podcast


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Climate Change: America and the World features academic experts and practitioners who explore and explain the global role and responsibility of the US in climate change. From conversations on climate reparations to the future of the climate change debate in America, this six-part series takes a deep dive into the different ways climate change impacts America and the World.

Listen to Climate Change: America and the World.



The Politics of Race in American Film podcast


The Politics of Race in American Film is a limited podcast series from the LSE Phelan US Centre, hosted by Dr Clive James Nwonka, and released in the spring of 2021. Over four episodes this podcast explores what makes film such a powerful lens for understanding race, politics & society.

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Preview of The Politics of Race in American Film

In this special episode of The Ballpark we’re giving you a preview of our new podcast series, The Politics of Race in American Film. Chris Gilson interviews the podcast’s host, Dr. Clive James Nwonka, about what you can expect from the series, why film is such a useful lens for understanding race and society, and why taking a close look at film is especially relevant today.

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Episode 1 - The Politics of Race in American Film

What can film teach us about the evolution of racial politics and depictions of race in the United States?

In Episode 1 of The Politics of Race in American FilmDr Clive Nwonka outlines the history and research that has shaped this series – from his own love of cinema as a child growing up in London to his career as an academic at the LSE. Dr Nwonka then welcomes our first guest, Dr Sam Mejias, to discuss the films that shaped their early ideas about race, how film influences people’s perceptions about the Black experience in America, and how depictions of Black life in America have changed over time.

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Episode 2, Race, Space, and The City

In this episode of The Politics of Race in American Film podcast, Dr. Clive James Nwonka discusses the films Paterson and The Last Black Man in San Francisco with Dr. Suzanne Hall (LSE Sociology) and Dr. Austin Zeiderman (LSE Geography and the Environment). Both films examine the relationships their main characters have with the cities in which they live, work, and create, but the protagonists of each film, Paterson and Jimmie, have radically different experiences of urban life. 

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Episode 3, Class, Gender, and Freedom at the Edges of America

In this episode of The Politics of Race in American Film, Dr. Clive James Nwonka hosts a conversation with Melanie Hoyes (British Film Institute), Dr. Luisa Heredia (Sarah Lawrence College), and Dr. Shelley Cobb (University of Southampton) about the films American Honey and The Florida Project.This conversation explores the films’ themes of economic precarity, the absence and ineptitude of the state as a site of assistance, and the communities that form outside of that system. The discussion also explores depictions of Latinidad, biracial identity, gender and white femininity.


Episode 4, Hollywood Representations of Blackness

In this episode of The Politics of Race in American Film, Dr. Clive James Nwonka hosts a conversation with Cheryl Bedford (Women of Color Unite), Lanre Bakare (The Guardian), and Sam Mejias (The New School) which looks at films which engage with questions of blackness and race in America during the Obama and Trump eras. These films include Moonlight, Get Out, Us, Queen and Slim, Waves, Harriet, and more recently, Judas and the Black Messiah. What do these films tell us about the politics of race, both within the industry and more broadly in American society, and how we see African American films (or African Americans within film) shaping and influencing the racial politics of the US? What might be next for African American cinema in the era of Joe Biden?

The Ballpark Season 4 - The State of the States

Episode 4.3: New York: Education Inequality in the Empire State
2 March 2022

We head to New York to learn more about the Empire State. We look at the ‘city that never sleeps’, and the rest of the state, which is one that many of us may actually know very little about. We explore how the City and the rest of the state interact, as well as how they differ on some key issues, and in one important area, education, that rift is a big one.

Contributors:  David Little (Rural Schools Association of New York State and Rural Schools Program at Cornell University) and Marisa Lago (New York City Department of City Planning and City Planning Commission).

Episode 4.2: California: Environmental Policy in the Golden State
25 January 2020

We head to California to take an in-depth look at the Golden State’s considerable economic power and what that means for its ability to influence environmental policy nationwide. We also discuss the state’s worsening wildfires, and what actions the state and federal government can take to mitigate them.

Contributors: Professor Renee Van Vechten (University of Redlands) and Professor Leah Stokes (University of California, Santa Barbara).

Episode 4.1: Kentucky: Realigning, Republican, Religious, and Rural
16 March 2020

For our Season 4 premiere, we’re heading to the Bluegrass State – Kentucky – to talk about the state’s geography, state politics, and political realignment with Professor Anne Cizmar, Associate Professor of Government at Eastern Kentucky University.

Contributors: Professor Anne Cizmar, Associate Professor of Government at Eastern Kentucky University.

The Ballpark Season 3  

Episode 3.7: Politics and Policing in New Jersey
23 January 2019

For this episode of the Ballpark, we head to New Jersey and take an in-depth look at the state’s recent politics and controversial former Governor, Chris Christie. We also discuss the state of policing in New Jersey with the chief of the Camden County Police Department, and we find out just why New Jersey is known as the Garden State.

Contributors: Ashley Koning (Rutgers University), Joe Miller (LSE General Course), Scott Thompson(Camden County Police)

Episode 3.6: Polarization and deindustrialization in the Badger State
23 January 2019

We take a look at the state of Wisconsin through the lens of deindustrialization. Together with our contributors, we examine how the Badger state’s politics have become more polarized in the past decade and what happened to its people when the factories began to close.

Contributors: Wendy Scattergood (St. Norbert College), Amy Goldstein (Washington Post)

Episode 3.5: Missouri
7 January 2019

In this episode, we head to Missouri to investigate the state’s political landscape and why its Senate race was so heated in this midterm cycle. We also talk to experts about 2018 as the Year of the Woman, explore some fascinating research on political ideology, and talk about what we can expect from this record-setting number of women in Congress.

Contributors: Robynn Kuhlmann (University of Central Missouri), Samantha Pettey (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts)

Episode 3.4: The Lone Star State You Don’t Know
6 November 2018

As the midterms draw nearer, we’re zooming in on some of the most interesting races in the US. This week, we’re headed to Texas to learn about its uniquely individualist culture, what’s happening in its Senate race, and how the Lone Star State is poised to become an even more important player in national politics.

Contributors: Peter Trubowitz, Director of LSE’s US Centre and Head of the International Relations Department at LSE, Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker, Heather Evans, Associate Professor of Political Science and Sam Houston State University, and Sarah Scaffidi, of LSE’s US Centre.

Episode 3.3: Healthcare politics and policy in Tennessee

24 September 2018

In this episode, we’re going to Tennessee, the volunteer state, to see how healthcare is impacting one of the most competitive Senate races in the country.

Contributors: LSE Alumni Jason Burchard of RootNoteAmanda Wintersieck of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Andy Schneider of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families and Sarah Scaffidi, LSE US Centre.

Episode 3.2: Arizona: Immigration politics in the Grand Canyon State
9 July 2018

As a part of our State of the States season, we’re diving deep into the political landscape of Arizona, the Grand Canyon State, and taking a close look at how immigration is playing out in the US Senate race of this border state.

Contributors: Susannah Crockford of Ghent University and Antonia Farzan (@antoniafarzan), Staff Writer at the Phoenix New Times.

Episode 3.1: Textbooks in Texas and Cars in California
July 2018

This season, we’re taking a look at how the states influence and shape America’s politics and policy. The stories, the elections, the policies, the political ecosystems, the people of these places are what drives the national narrative. And so, this season, “The State of the States” will take us to some of the most interesting and divided places in the United States.

Contributors: Chris Bonneau (@Bonneau_Says) and Kris Kanthak (@kramtrak), associate professors of political science at the University of Pittsburgh and co-editors of State Politics and Policy Quarterly.

The Ballpark Season 2

Episode 2.9: What can be done about fake news?
8 January 2018

Fake news has taken the world and especially America by storm, and in this episode, we talk with two academics who are part of LSE’s effort to define and address this threat to society. We talk with Charlie Beckett and Sonia Livingstone about fake news: what it is and what we can do about it.

Contributors: Professor Charlie Beckett, Director of Polis, the Media Policy Project and the LSE Truth, Trust & Technology Commission; Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE, Professor of Social Psychology in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE

Episode 2.8: Where did the opioid epidemic come from?
20 November 2017

With the skyrocketing rates of opioid abuse and overdose deaths in the US, John Collins and Alex Soderholm of the International Drugs Policy Unit join us to dissect the key questions behind this epidemic: what’s at the root of this opioid crisis? Where are these drugs coming from? And what can the US do about it?

Contributors: Dr John Collins, Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Unit; Alexander Soderholm, Policy Coordinator of the IDPU

Episode 2.7: The Rural-Urban Divide
12 October 2017

The distance between America’s rural and urban communities have become a pivotal element of politics and elections. Professor Kathy Cramer has spent the last decade investigating the attitudes and identities that have contributed to this divide, and in this episode, we dive into that work with her and PhD candidate Tory Mallett.

Contributors: Kathy Kramer, Director of the Morgridge Center for Public Service and Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Tory Mallett, PhD Student in LSE's Department of Sociology

Episode 2.6: Racism towards Latinos: Past, present, and future 
11 September 2017

The current US president is not the first American leader to use inflammatory rhetoric  about Latinos and push anti-immigration policies, but Donald Trump’s presidency has certainly brought these issue to the forefront of American politics. This episode we’re diving into the fear, resentment, and history behind racism towards Latinos, and in doing so, we’ll see that this is far from a recent phenomenon.

Contributors: Neil Foley, Robert and Nancy Dedman Professor of History at Southern Methodist University; Susannah Crockford, Research Officer for Inform

Episode 2.5: The future of American progressivism
7 August 2017

After a number of disappointing elections, many people have been left asking “Who is the Democratic Party?” In this episode, we’ll not only take on that question, but we’ll take a step further. Who will the Democratic Party be going forward? Will there even be a Democratic Party going forward?

Contributors: Thomas Frank, author and former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and Harper’s, founding editor of The Baffler; Inge Kjemtrup, chair of Democrats Abroad UK.

Episode 2.4: The Changing Face of American Conservatism
4 July 2017

From the party of Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump, the Republican Party is changing, but what caused these changes and where is American conservatism headed? This episode, we dive into these and other questions about the changing face of Republicans, the GOP, and American conservatism.

Contributors: Yuval Levin, Editor of National Affairs; Alex Sundstrom, Republicans Overseas UK. 

Episode 2.3: Trumpian Foreign policy
2 June 2017

This episode, we're taking a look at how President Trump's prioritisation of "America First" will impact foreign policy. What will America's presence and actions in the world look like during the Trump era?

Contributors: Charles Kupchan, Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University; Emmanuelle Blanc, PhD Student in the International Relations Department at LSE.

Episode 2.2: Do state governments even matter?
2 May 2017

This episode, we’re looking into an often overlooked level of American policy-making: state governments. While the federal government is gripped by gridlock, the states surprisingly continue to pump out public policy. What makes these smaller governments work so efficiently? And do these laboratories of democracy really work for everyone?

Contributors: Jamie Monogan, Assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Georgia; Chris Gilson, Managing Editor of USAPP.

Episode 2.1: Populism and the new political spectrum
31 March 2017

While populism isn’t a new phenomenon in the United States, it has produced a new political spectrum in American politics and elections. In this episode, we explore why populism is so influential in US politics right now, what impact it is having on the political landscape, and where the government or politicians should go from here.

Contributors: Eric Kaufmann, Professor of Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London; Brian Klaas, Fellow in Comparative Politics at the LSE’s Department of Government

The Ballpark Season 1

Episode 1.9: The LSE and USA
10 January 2017

The LSE and United States have a long, intertwined history, and in this episode, we dive into the special relationship between Americans, London, and the LSE. 

Contributors: Mick Cox, Professor of International Relations at LSE; Marcia Balisciano, Director of the Benjamin Franklin House in London; and Gavin Baird, recipient of the Marshall Scholarship at LSE

Episode 1.8: America’s contentious and complicated criminal justice system
20 September 2016

This episode takes us beyond the headlines to investigate what societal structures makes America’s criminal justice system so different from those of other countries, and we take a look at what role the Black Lives Matter movement plays in this contemporary debate.

Contributors: Nicola Lacey of LSE’s Law Department and Michael McQuarrie of LSE Sociology.

Episode 1.7: Federalism, the longest lasting debate in America
26 July 2016

We dive into one of the oldest and longest lasting debates in American history: federalism vs. states’ rights. Even though it’s centuries old, this issue keeps popping up, and we walk you through the implications of this debate.

Contributors: Waltraud Schelkle of the LSE’s European Institute, Sierra Smucker, PhD student at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, and Visiting Student at the LSE US Centre, and Chris Parkes, Post-Doctoral Fellow at the LSE.

Episode 1.6: Place Matters
23 June 2016

We take a look at the role geography plays in politics, inequality, and more.

Contributors: Jonathan Rodden, Professor in the Department of Political Science at Stanford University and Margaret Weir, Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

Episode 1.5: What’s a political poll got to do with it?
3 June 2016

We look at what political polling can tell us about democratic participation, public policy, and political priorities.

Contributors: Daniel Laurison, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the LSE’s Sociology Department, Larry Jacobs, Walter F. and Joan Mondale Chair for Political Studies at the University of Minnesota, and Jamie Weinstein, Senior Editor of The Daily Caller.

Episode 1.4: The Almighty Dollar
13 May 2016

We look at the almighty dollar and decipher US monetary policy, central banking, and exchange rates.

Contributors: Contributors: Jeff Frieden, Professor of Government at Harvard University, Gianluca Benigno, Professor of Economics at the LSE, and Chris Parkes, Post-Doctoral Fellow at the LSE.

Episode 1.3: Power, Person, People: US Foreign Policy
25 April 2016

We take a look at contemporary theories around American power and the factors that influence US foreign policy. 

Contributors: Nick Kitchen, Assistant Professorial Research Fellow at the LSE US Centre, Xenia Wickett, head of the US and the Americas Programme at Chatham House, and Lloyd Gruber, Lecturer in Political Economy of Development at the LSE's Department of  International Development.

Episode 1.2: This is not a hot take
18 March 2016

We dive into the current state of American politics, but instead of giving you a "hot take," we present you with a historical perspective from 1920 and a political theory on polarisation.

Contributors: Mona Morgan-Collins, Fellow, LSE Government Department, and James Snyder, Leroy B. Williams Professor of History and Political Science at Harvard University.

Episode 1.1: The strongest economy for who?
3 March 2016

We take a look at the US’ economic recovery and how its benefits might not have been felt by everyone equally.

Contributors: Jeff Clemens, Assistant Professor at UC San Diego, and Michael Amior, Research Officer at the LSE's Centre for Economic Performance.

Ballpark Extra Innings

In our Ballpark Extra Innings podcasts, we spend some more time on an interview, topic or discussion that we cover in regular episodes of The Ballpark.

Listen to our latest Extra Innings episodes.

Video Explainers

  • The Nomination Process
    Derek Valles of the LSE Government Department discusses how the American political primary and presidential nomination systems work, and their history.

    Watch on Youtube
  • The Two-Party System
    Dr Nick Anstead of the LSE Department of Media and Communications discusses the history, evolution and the potential future of the two party system in American politics.

    Watch on Youtube
  • Voter Eligibility
    Dr Daniel Laurison of LSE Sociology looks at the history of voter eligibility in America and recent trends and changes to voting laws and voting rights.

    Watch on Youtube
  • Lobbying 
    Dr Jordi Blanes i Vidal of the LSE Department of Management discusses what lobbying is and how it works in Washington DC, including the ‘revolving door’ between lobbyists and public sector workers.

    Watch on Youtube
  • Trade Policy
    Dr Julia Gray of LSE’s International Relations Department discusses what trade deals are, their recent history, and who benefits and who loses from them in the economy. 

    Watch on Youtube
  • Criminal Justice 
    Professor Nicola Lacey looks at the fragmented nature of the US criminal justice system and how judicial elections and ‘appeals to toughness’ have influenced the incarceration rate at the state level.

    Watch on Youtube
  • The Transition of Power
    Dr Derek Valles from the US Centre looks at power transitions between presidents of the United States. He also considers the challenges facing the president-elect in the coming months.

    Watch on Youtube

There are lots of ways to catch-up with upcoming episodes of The Ballpark podcast: this website, our SoundCloud page, subscribe on iTunes or iTunesU, or add this RSS feed to your podcast app.

We’d love to hear what you think of our podcasts and videos – you can send us a message on Twitter @LSE_Ballpark, or email us at

The Ballpark is produced with help from the LSE’S Annual Fund and the US Embassy in the UK.  Our theme tune is by Ranger and the “Re-Arrangers”, a Seattle based gypsy jazz band.

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