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  • Author: Haizam Amirah-Fernandez
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic is shaking Arab countries hard at a time when the region is already under great pressure. The responses of Arab states to the threat of the coronavirus, added to the uncertain international context generated by the pandemic, is aggravating existing problems in the Middle East and the Maghreb. This current global emergency and its ramifications has the potential to turn socioeconomic challenges into political crises and intensify demands for change that have spread through multiple countries in the region over the past decade. Until an effective vaccine against the pandemic is made available and widely accessible, the economic and social costs of the drastic restrictions being imposed by Arab governments during the successive waves of the pandemic may be overwhelming and, ultimately, unbearable.
  • Topic: Politics, Arts, Culture, COVID-19, Demonstrations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries, North Africa
  • Author: Vicki Valosik, Kristin Smith
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: For Kristin Smith, MAAS alum and Cultural Affairs Officer for the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, culture and diplomacy go hand-in-hand. “My job is really using culture and art to bring people closer together,” Smith told the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star at a U.S. Embassy event celebrating the Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran. “It’s not just about deepening our ties and getting to know each other on a cultural level though. If we have these similarities in [the arts], then perhaps that will lead to future cooperation in other ways.” During her time in the MA in Arab Studies program, Smith—who holds a BA in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization from Harvard—pursued an academic concentration in Culture and Society, managed a yoga studio, and served as a Public Diplomacy Fellow at the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca. Following graduation, she joined the Foreign Service, serving in Taiwan before beginning her current position in 2017. Her portfolio as Cultural Affairs Officer covers five primary issues: arts and culture, non-formal education, academic outreach, interfaith and minority outreach, and alumni programming.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Culture, Language, Arabic
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, North America, Beirut, United States of America
  • Author: Isabel Roemer
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: A MAAS grad’s work at the intersection of diplomacy and cinematic arts is shaping American narratives and empowering storytellers around the globe. When people think about the tools of diplomatic engagement, narrative storytelling is not one that usually comes to mind. But for Rachel Gandin Mark, Program Director of the American Film Showcase (ASF)—the State Department’s film, television, and digital diplomacy program —the two go hand-in-hand. “I love thinking about how to incorporate entertainment, particularly story and character, into specific foreign policy strategies,” says Gandin Mark, who graduated from MAAS in 2003. “Some of our country’s biggest diplomatic challenges today stem from conflicting global narratives. Film and TV, when produced with authenticity and nuance, have the potential to complicate narratives and reveal a shared human experience.”
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Culture, Media, Film
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kala Carruthers Azar
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: Alum Kala Carruthers Azar, who serves as Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, writes about the important role of people-to-people exchanges to American soft power.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Culture, Soft Power
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, Jordan, United States of America