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.
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 (Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty) was signed in 2002, and New START was signed in April of 2010 (4:06) as well as whether all these treaties were successful (6:11).
Professor Weiner describes what might have happened if President Biden and President Putin did not agree to extend New START before its expiration date in February 2021 (10:04). Now that the two leaders have agreed to extend the treaty for five years—the maximum allowed in its text—Professor Weiner discusses what might occur in the next few years as New START nears expiration (15:54) and shares why the nuclear arsenal is a mistake waiting to happen (17:57).
What does the future hold for nuclear relations between the US, Russia, and other countries around the world (21:53)? Why do nuclear weapons pose not only a physical danger but also a danger to global cooperation (23:27)? Professor Weiner answers these questions and shares if she thinks the US, Russia, and other nuclear powers would ever agree to abolish the use of nuclear weapons (25:52).
During our “Take Five” segment, Professor Weiner tells us the first five things the Biden administration should do to achieve nuclear disarmament (13:15).
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 (1:53). She also describes her fieldwork in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, where she found that global media depictions of Black American artists have impacted how Abidjan street vendors view their roles as men (5:28).
The patriarchal idea that the sole measure of a man is his capacity to earn money—the wage earner ideal—is not specific to any one country. Matlon breaks down how this idea impacts Black men across the African diaspora worldwide (10:07) and shares why she uses scare quotes when describing a “crisis” of Black masculinity (15:33).
In a nod to the unusual life of an enthnographer as compared to other academics, Matlon reveals what was it like to record two songs with a former street vendor and her research assistants while she was in Abidjan (17:16).
Finally, the year 2020 spurred a level of activism not seen in the US in decades. This activism mostly was aimed at redressing the country’s systemic racism. Looking forward, Matlon shares what she thinks success looks like for this generation of activists (21:06).
During our “Take Five” segment, Matlon states what five things she would do to disassociate Black masculinity from “crisis” (13:35), once and for all.
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, had he not been assassinated in 1963, to have been the first US president to prioritize human rights abroad (4:06).
Based on research she conducted for her book, From Selma to Moscow: How Human Rights Activists Transformed US Foreign Policy, Snyder explains how transnational activism during the long ’60s fundamentally altered US foreign policy related to human rights (7:35) and how the decade and a half set the stage for human rights policy today (9:20).
Is promoting human rights abroad a partisan issue (13:28)? Can we expect to see human rights return as a US foreign policy priority in the Biden administration (15:25)? Snyder answers these questions and discusses whether or not current activism for human rights reflects what we saw in the ’60s (17:20) and if the influence on US politics of that influential decade is beginning to wane (20:40).
During our “Take Five” segment, Snyder tells us five steps that a new presidential administration should take to signal that it prioritizes human rights (11:13).
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 Russia-US relations were less strained right after 9/11 and during the 2008-2012 “reset” between then-US president Barack Obama and then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev (4:55). Finally, he shares how much of an impact Russia’s 2016 election interference campaign had on the relationship (8:01).
Looking ahead, how will the Biden administration affect Washington’s relationship with Moscow (15:21)? Will the new US administration continue a visible and vocal role of promoting democracy in other countries, and—if so—would that serve as a barrier to improving Russia-US relations (17:40)?
And, for the million dollar question, Darden discusses whether or not better Russia-US relations are even feasible with Vladimir Putin in power.
During our “Take Five” segment, Darden shares the five policies he would institute to improve Russia-US relations (9:39).
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 and war—what she calls conflict cuisine (6:40).
Why is conflict cuisine a unique part of DC’s culinary scene (10:46)? How does Professor Mendelson Forman use food and visits to local restaurants to teach students about war and peace, diplomacy, and conflict resolution (12:43)? She answers these questions and explains what has changed in DC’s conflict cuisines over the last five years (15:03).
Finally, Professor Mendelson Forman examines the possible impact of COVID-19 on family or chef-owned global cuisine restaurants (17:05) and discusses the important role social gastronomy, or the use of food to do good, is playing during the coronavirus pandemic (18:48).
During our “Take Five” segment, Professor Mendelson Forman tells us the five ways she’d like to see people use food as a tool for activism and social change (9:39).
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 people are more likely to be victims of police violence (5:59). She also discusses whether other countries have grappled with the degree of police violence seen in the US (8:56).
Why did the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis spark anger and mass protests around the world (14:50)? What does defunding or abolishing the police actually mean (18:15)? Professor Schneider answers these questions and describes the kinds of reforms that can effectively be enacted to allow the public to hold police accountable for misconduct (21:26).
During our “Take Five” segment, Professor Schneider shares the first five things she would do to reform policing in the United States (10:53).
Customer ReviewsSee All
This podcast does a great job of distilling some of the more complex issues in international affairs ((e.g. the defense budget, human migration) through one on one interviews-not an easy task! Lol forward to more episodes.
Tried it for a few months but can’t keep going
Very good topics which should intrigue foreign policy followers or expats (like me). But the guests are insanely biased and liberal. I tried to keep listening but after 4-5 episodes, sadly I am done. I guess everyone involved in this podcast is drinking from the same koolaid but without any diversity of thought, what’s the point?
Big World: nice!
Great podcast! Well done in depth exam of timely issues!