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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.

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.




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...


Farming's Racist Roots

Agriculture in America is older than the United States itself. But agriculture policy and the politics that drive it have always been, like so much of our world's history, unequal at best. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Garrett Graddy-Lovelace joins us to discuss agricultural policy, racial inequities, and the need for a new way of thinking about land both in the US and around the world. Graddy-Lovelace explains what political ecology and decolonial studies are (1:55) and how...


Who Controls the Internet?

Over the past decade, the internet’s role in international affairs has expanded, with governments, including India’s, periodically shutting down the internet; great powers, like Russia in the 2016 US presidential election, spreading disinformation; and private companies like Facebook and Twitter becoming the gatekeepers of public discourse. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Eric Novotny joins us to discuss how the internet is used and misused to impact international affairs....


Is the US a Flawed Democracy?

The United States has long considered itself the world's bastion of democracy. However, independent analysis currently doesn't support that belief, and the Economist Intelligence Unit's annual Democracy Index has rated the US a “flawed democracy” for the past several years. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Agustina Giraudy joins us to discuss democratic backsliding in the US. Professor Giraudy gives her take on whether the US's institutions proved durable or failed during the...


A "New START" for Nuclear Weapons

In the early 1990s, the US and the USSR signed the first of a series of treaties designed to limit the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Sharon Weiner joins us to discuss the many nuclear weapons treaties between the US and Russia—the world's two largest nuclear powers. Professor Weiner explains the significance of START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) signed in 1991 (2:14). She also breaks down why START II was signed in 1993, SORT...


Black Masculinity & the Wage Earner Ideal

Amidst the long-overdue reckoning with systemic racism in the US and globally, an area of study that focuses on the lives of Black people and seeks to more fully share a totality of Black experience has gained increased attention. In this episode, SIS professor Jordanna Matlon joins Big World to discuss her research on one of these areas: Black masculinity. Matlon explains why individual Black men who garner great wealth or celebrity status become performing commodities in popular culture...


The Long Shadow of the Long '60s

The 1960s started 60 years ago, but the shadow cast by that decade in the US is long. It was a decade that fundamentally changed how the US treats our citizens and views our role in the world. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Sarah Snyder joins us to discuss the long 1960s and US human rights policy. Snyder tells us how she defines the “long ’60s” (1:28) and explains how US human rights policy evolved over this time period (2:32). She also discusses John F. Kennedy’s potential,...


Russia-US Relations After Trump

Russia is defined, at least in part, by its relationship with the United States. In January 2021, US leadership will transition again, and the world's most significant dysfunctional relationship will evolve yet again. In this episode, SIS professor Keith Darden joins Big World to discuss the future of Russia-US relations. Looking back, Darden first discusses whether or not the United States’ relationship with Russia is the worst that it has been since 1985 (1:43). He then describes why...


The Politics of Food

It is not surprising that food—something so universal yet so individual and culturally specific—would have a place in foreign policy. In this episode, SIS professor Johanna Mendelson Forman joins Big World to discuss culinary diplomacy, gastrodiplomacy, and conflict cuisine. Professor Mendelson Forman shares how governments use food as a tool for soft power (1:38) and explains the difference between culinary diplomacy and gastrodiplomacy (4:46). She also discusses the connection between food...


Can US Policing Be Redeemed?

Breonna Taylor. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. George Floyd. The list of names goes on and on and on. They are US citizens killed by the police. They are all Black. And those two facts are inextricably linked. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Cathy Schneider joins us to discuss racial profiling and police violence. Professor Schneider explains how ethnic, racial, and religious minorities are policed differently than other groups in the US (1:28) and why Black, Latinx, and Indigenous...


The Netanyahu Effect

*Note: This episode of Big World was recorded with Guy Ziv prior to the agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates that was signed on August 13th, 2020. Over his decades in and out of power, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has redefined what it means for Israel to be a Jewish democratic state. In this episode, Professor Guy Ziv joins Big World to discuss Netanyahu’s outsized role in Israeli politics. Ziv explains how Netanyahu rose to power (2:17), how his stance toward...


How to Get an Internship in International Affairs

A college graduate’s search for their first professional job is made a lot easier when they have a great internship or two on their résumé. In this episode, Shaine Cunningham, SIS director of career education and employer relations, joins Big World to share her insights on landing an internship in international affairs. Cunningham discusses when students should start looking for internships for any given semester (1:30) and what types of experiences their résumés should highlight (2:49). She...


War by Proxy

What happens when a country is powerful enough not to fight its own battles? In this episode, SIS professor Dylan Craig joins Big World to discuss proxy warfare. Professor Craig provides an expansive understanding of proxy warfare and how a proxy war differs from a traditional war or armed conflict (2:01). He explains why proxy wars are a “rediscovered classic” rather than a recent development in international affairs (3:34) and breaks down whether or not most modern conflicts are proxy wars...


Who Stole Democracy from the Arabs?

As far as the West is concerned, World War I is largely a European story, but that's only part of the full narrative. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Elizabeth Thompson discusses stolen democracy in the Middle East after “the war to end all wars.” Professor Thompson, the Mohamed S. Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace at SIS, provides a more expansive understanding of the impact of World War I and the Paris Peace Conference (2:25), including the Syrian Arab Congress that convened at...


The Lethal Inequity of Coronavirus

Viruses are supposed to be the ultimate equal opportunity offenders–they’re just looking for a host. Why, then, have inequities become magnified during the coronavirus pandemic? SIS professor Nina Yamanis joins Big World to discuss how COVID-19 has exacerbated existing inequities in the United States. She discusses how foreseeable the pandemic was (1:42) and explains how the social determinants of health impact people’s health care experiences on a normal basis (2:54) versus during the...


What Cuba Got Right

Though Fidel Castro was an authoritarian leader with no tolerance for dissenting views and little regard for human rights, Cuba under his rule developed and maintained robust public education and healthcare programs. This seeming contradiction exemplifies some of the challenges that understanding Cuba presents. In short, Cuba’s governance in the past and today is complicated. SIS professor Philip Brenner joins Big World to discuss what Cuba has gotten right. He shares his thoughts on Senator...


Human Rights & the Middle East

According to Amnesty International’s 2018 review of human rights in the Middle East and North Africa, this is not a great time for human rights activists and defenders in the Middle East. That year saw an increased crackdown on civil society in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. In 2019, massive protests took place in Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran. Against this backdrop, SIS professor Shadi Mokhtari joins Big World to discuss human rights in the Middle East. She shares the current state of human...


Selling Terrorism Online

Over the past two decades, the roles of social media and other digital technologies have evolved. What started as a means of communication among friends quickly snowballed into tools for business, activism, and more. But these new technologies have also been used by terrorists for malicious purposes. Professor Audrey Kurth Cronin, founding director of SIS’s Center for Security, Innovation, and New Technology, joins Big World to discuss how the Internet and social media have impacted...


What's a Normal Presidency?

To say the president's foreign policy agenda has been an item of interest lately is a dramatic understatement. The American president traditionally sets foreign policy priorities for the country, but can the modern president do whatever they want? When the subject is the US presidency, what is normal? SIS professor Jordan Tama joins Big World to discuss the role of the US president in foreign policy. He explains how the American system is supposed to work regarding foreign policymaking,...


Where Do Refugees Go?

Every minute in 2018, 25 people were forced to flee their homes. That's according to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, which also revealed in their 2018 annual report that there are currently more than 70.8 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, including 25.9 million refugees. SIS professor Tazreena Sajjad joins Big World to discuss where refugees go. She reveals which countries are producing and taking in the most refugees (1:34) and explains why most of the world’s refugees are hosted...