AHA Today - June 14, 2017
Shuang Wen is a research fellow at
the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore (MEI-NUS).
She lives in Singapore and has been an AHA member since 2010.
Alma maters: MA, American University in Cairo, 2008; PhD, Georgetown University, 2015
Fields of interest: global history, Arab-Chinese interactions
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? I
initially encountered the Middle East as a broadcast journalist for
Phoenix Satellite Television InfoNews Channel in Hong Kong (2003–06).
During those reporting trips, I learned some rudimentary Arabic,
including ana siniyah (I am Chinese). Wherever I went, as soon as I said ana siniyah, the response was always a passionate ahlan wa sahlan
(welcome). Despite the linguistic and cultural differences, the local
people’s friendliness and hospitality deeply touched my heart. I told
myself that if I wanted to write in-depth and human-oriented stories, I
needed to study the Arabic language and history of the Middle East.
Therefore, I enrolled in an MA program in Middle East studies at the
American University in Cairo (AUC). During the Israel-Hizbullah
conflicts in 2006, I freelanced as a war correspondent reporting on the
humanitarian crisis in Lebanon.
At AUC, I took intensive Arabic
classes. I also learned how to conduct research and write academic
papers in the English language. I was gradually attracted to the beauty
and profoundness of a scholarly life. The excitement of discovering
different layers of the past in a quiet library room and having
intellectually stimulating conversations with like-minded colleagues
eventually led to my decision to pursue a PhD at Georgetown University.
My committee members were supportive, for which I am grateful. I
believed in the value of my research on Arab-Chinese connections. It is
an under-studied topic but has become increasingly important, especially
with China’s deepening engagements with Middle Eastern countries today.