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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.


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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.




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...


The Rise of Putin

On December 31, 1999, Vladimir Putin became acting president of Russia. Twenty years later, he is still the country’s president and will be for the foreseeable future—at least until 2024. But how exactly did he come to occupy such a prominent global role? SIS professor and former dean James Goldgeier joins Big World to discuss the rise of Vladimir Putin. He relays the historical context of Russia in the 1990s (2:09) as well as what defines a Russian oligarch and why they hold such power in...


US Foreign Aid Deconstructed

How effective is US foreign assistance, and why is it offered in the first place? In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Jessica Trisko Darden discusses foreign aid and how it can be more thoughtfully implemented. Professor Trisko Darden provides background on how US foreign aid got started in the years after World War II (1:23) and explains why the US became one of the largest providers of assistance (3:28). She discusses whether exporting American values plays a role in US foreign aid...


Brazil: Does Corruption Corrode Democracy?

Authoritarianism and corruption are on the rise in Latin America, while democracy may be receding. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Matthew Taylor joins us to discuss politics and corruption in Brazil, which is a bellwether because of its status as the largest democracy in Latin America, the ninth-largest economy in the world, and a member of the G20. Professor Taylor breaks down what the Lava Jato, or “Operation Car Wash,” scandal has revealed about money laundering and...


Teaching Today's World

International affairs education is changing. From teaching, learning, and administrative perspectives, the curriculum continues to evolve alongside a transforming world. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor and Assistant Dean for Masters Education Mike Schroeder joins us to discuss the changing nature of international affairs education. He talks about how introductory world politics courses have changed since he took them (1:21) and how the ideas of interdependence and globalization...


Rape during Wartime

As long as there have been people, there has been conflict and war among them. And too often, this conflict has been accompanied by sexual violence. Through the centuries, there has been a move to re-classify war rape as a war crime rather than as spoils of war. But there has also been a recognition that sometimes sexual violence is not just a traumatic outcome of conflict; sometimes rape is part of the strategy. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Wanda Wigfall-Williams joins us to...


How to Get a Job in International Affairs

The School of International Service takes an enormous amount of pride in our students and their potential to positively impact the world. We believe that a crucial piece of preparing students to effect positive change is preparing them for landing a great job when they graduate. In this episode of Big World, Cunningham joins us to give her insights on landing jobs in international affairs. She shares the types of experiences that students should acquire while they’re in school (1:29), ways...


The Difference a Union Makes

There is, perhaps, no better measure of a country than how it treats its workers, and Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, is a manufacturing powerhouse that is known for its progressive ideals on labor relations. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Steve Silvia joins us to discuss labor in Germany and to contrast its labor relations with that of the US. He explains why the German manufacturing sector is so strong (1:50), the differences between German and American attitudes...


A Leg Up for Startups

Small businesses are often referred to as the engine or the backbone of the economy. Entrepreneurs, the people who build new businesses and come up with innovative ideas, can help deter economic stagnation. In this episode of Big World, Professor Krista Tuomi joins us to discuss entrepreneurship and startups, as well as how local governments stake a claim in the promotion of innovation (1:08). She explains how disproportionate regulation can be a barrier to small businesses (2:53) and...


Show me the (Border) Money

At the heart of the 35-day partial government shutdown, the longest in US history, was a fiery debate over funding for the border wall. Throughout that period, Americans were constantly reassured by officials that the military would remain funded. While the shutdown ended, Trump’s desire to fund the wall did not. In this episode of Big World, Professor Emeritus Gordon Adams joins us to discuss how defense money can be moved around across departments (1:31) and how flexible that money can be...


Earth After Activism

Over the years, environmental activism in America has evolved. The movement began with a concern for wilderness and focused on pollution as we transitioned into the Industrial Revolution. Events that occurred during World War II then gave rise to the modern environmental movement in which the post-war generation no longer accepted environmental destruction at the price of progress. And now, the environmental challenge that defines our time is climate change. In this episode of Big World, SIS...