Thursday, June 15, 2017

AHA Member Spotlight: Shuang Wen - Arab-Chinese interactions

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.