Big World

News & Politics Podcasts

Big World shines a spotlight on complex ideas and issues that matter. Each episode features an expert from the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC, breaking down a big, important topic into small bite sizes.


United States


Big World shines a spotlight on complex ideas and issues that matter. Each episode features an expert from the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC, breaking down a big, important topic into small bite sizes.




Europe Veers Toward Nationalism

The continent of Europe has been home to every conceivable type of government over thousands of years, with democracy being the dominant force since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Yet, with the elections of far-right politicians across the continent in recent years, the landscape has changed. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor and Transatlantic Policy Center co-director Garret Martin joins us to evaluate what this shift toward...


Can the US Win the Technology War?

The United States has been the leader in digital technology and innovation for decades. However, in recent years, the race between countries to control this space has become closer than ever. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Daniel Gerstein joins us to explore the global technology war and the power that comes from being its winner at every stage. Gerstein discusses his new book “Tech Wars: Transforming US Technology Development” (1:25) and how the US rose to the top of the global...


AIDS, COVID, and the Politics of Public Health

December 1 is World AIDS Day, and January 2023 marks 20 years of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which provides for groundbreaking AIDS treatment, prevention, and research. In this episode of Big World, SIS dean Shannon Hader, an expert in infectious diseases and epidemiology and a global leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, joins us to explore how the AIDS response informed policies during the outbreak of COVID-19 and how politics impacts the public perception of...


Border Battles in Eurasia

When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, its republics were established as countries with internationally recognized borders. But borders are only as stable as the people within them will allow them to be. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has seemingly opened the floodgates for revisiting old conflicts and tensions, sparking border clashes among other former Soviet republics in the region known as Eurasia. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Keith Darden, an expert on...


How are Political Prisoner Swaps Negotiated?

Taking hostages and prisoners is not a new occurrence; people have been taken hostage by those seeking to gain a political upper hand for thousands of years. What is new today is that more US hostages currently are being held by foreign governments than by terrorist or militant groups. Some of the most recent, high-profile political prisoner cases are those of WNBA star and US citizen Brittney Griner and US citizen Paul Whelan. They have both been detained in Russian prisons, and with these...


Life After Roe

On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling in the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health case. The ruling overturned nearly 50 years of judicial precedent set by Roe v Wade in 1973 and sent the question of abortion regulations and laws back to individual US states. The impact of this decision and the precedent it sets will have far reaching effects on the current and future state of reproductive rights and abortion policy in the United States. In this episode of Big World our guest is...


How America’s Militias Threaten Democracy

In the aftermath of the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, anti-government militias like the Oath Keepers thrust themselves to the forefront of public consciousness. The ongoing January 6th committee hearings have increased the pressure on these groups to defend their actions leading up to and during that day. But the word “militia” is a very old word that appears in the founding document of the United States. It wasn't always associated with people attacking democracy but rather safeguarding...


Erdogan's Hold on Turkey

While the modern Turkish Republic was founded in the 1920s as a secular republic, the last two decades have seen this nation move from a democratic regime toward an authoritarian one. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Doga Eralp joins us to discuss the political career and the politics of a man who’s been Turkey’s leader for most of that time period, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Professor Eralp breaks down Erdogan’s rise to power, including how his controversial—and criminal—recitation of...


Can We End World Hunger?

Food insecurity is a serious problem that affects many, with people going hungry in all regions of the world. According to the US Department of Agriculture, approximately 1.2 billion people globally lack consistent access to enough calories. In this episode of Big World, SIS alumna Valerie Guarnieri, assistant executive director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), joins us to discuss world hunger as well as her career combating food insecurity. Guarnieri first explains how the global...


How Do Rebel Groups Govern?

While the immediate image that the phrase “rebel groups” brings to mind may be men dressed in fatigues and carrying Kalashnikov rifles, the activities of rebel groups extend beyond paramilitary engagements and into the provision of public goods and social services. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Megan Stewart joins us to discuss rebel governance. Professor Stewart defines rebel governance (1:29) and breaks down the different ways that rebel groups approach governance (2:03). She...


Dirty Money

Last year, the release of the Pandora Papers exposed secret offshore accounts belonging to world leaders, billionaires, and celebrities, and when Russia invaded Ukraine, Western nations responded, in part, with economic sanctions on Russian oligarchs. And, of course, in the US, April is known for Tax Day, which this year falls on April 18. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Dan Schneider joins us to discuss dirty money and illicit finance in the international system. Professor...


How Does Humanitarian Relief Fall Short?

Humanitarian assistance tends to be associated with aid workers figuratively parachuting into a country or a region to do work in times of event-based trauma, but that conceptualization only scratches the surface of what such work entails. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Lauren Carruth joins us to discuss a different kind of humanitarianism. Professor Carruth discusses the issues that arise from the humanitarian responses of large relief organizations (2:03) and explains why the...


What Do We Get Wrong About Afghanistan?

On August 30, 2021, nearly 20 years after they arrived, the last US troops left Afghanistan. Now, some six months later, the world has largely moved on from the story of Afghanistan and the people who remain there in the wake of the US withdrawal and the reinstatement of Taliban control. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Tazreena Sajjad joins us to discuss what we get wrong about Afghanistan when we only talk about the ways that other nations, including the US, intersect with it....


Capitol Insurrection, Riot, or Domestic Terrorism?

On January 6, 2021, a throng of Donald Trump supporters attacked the US Capitol building. Their stated goal was to overturn the valid results of the 2020 presidential election by interrupting the US Congress's count of electoral votes that would certify the election. One year later, SIS professor Joe Young joins us on this episode of Big World to discuss the January 6 attack on the Capitol and domestic terrorism. Young explains what differentiates domestic terrorism from other acts of...


Secrets, Spies, Intelligence, and Lines

Hollywood has made big business of spy films and television for decades, but the truth of intelligence gathering has always been opaque, even in a democracy like the US. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Aki Peritz joins us to discuss intelligence and national security. Peritz shares his definition of intelligence, discusses which US agencies gather intelligence (1:58), and dispels a DC urban legend about those who work for the CIA (5:10). He also explains how intelligence is...


What Do We Owe Veterans?

Since the US military transtioned from a draft to an all-volunteer force in 1973, most Americans can go their entire lives without thinking too much about their fellow citizens who sign up to serve in uniform. In this episode of Big World, Kayla M. Williams, SIS/MA ‘08, the assistant secretary of the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the US Department of Veterans Affairs, joins us to discuss veterans affairs and advocacy. Williams describes the work she did as an Arabic...


International Education Isn’t Optional Anymore

The world’s most pressing problems—including climate change, pandemics, and cybersecurity—cross borders. And to solve these problems, our students need international experience, believes Fanta Aw, vice president for undergraduate enrollment, campus life, and inclusive excellence at American University and Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer at SIS. In this episode of Big World, Aw joins us to discuss the importance of international education. She shares how she became interested in...


The National Security Legacy of 9/11

At 8:46 a.m. ET on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center—the first of four plane crashes that morning—and nothing was ever the same again. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and in this episode of Big World, SIS professor Josh Rovner joins us to discuss the national security legacy of 9/11. Professor Rovner shares where he was when the first plane hit the north tower (2:03), explains what...


Star Trek and Global IR

The original Star Trek television series, which aired from 1966 to 1969, spawned movies, sequels, and an entire pop culture universe. Along the way, the show and its successors have used their futuristic settings to animate a universe that both reflects and challenges the attitudes of their viewers. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Patrick Thaddeus Jackson joins us to discuss Star Trek, popular culture, and international relations. Professor Jackson tells us why Star Trek appeals...


How to Get a Fellowship in International Affairs

Fellowships can help students and recent graduates gain hands-on experience in international affairs and bolster their résumés for their desired career paths. In this episode of Big World, Chris Swanson, associate director of the Office of Merit Awards at American University, shares his expertise about landing a top fellowship in international affairs. Swanson discusses the landscape of major international fellowships and scholarships available to students as well as the benefits of applying...