FAS Past Speaker Updates

Suroosh Alvi

Last April, we hosted Suroosh Alvi - the co-founder of VICE News - as one of our six guest that
comprised our speaker series, Undercurrent. Alvi spoke in detail about his turbulent early years
as a drug addict, how he, along with Shane Smith, created VICE News, the adventurous nature
of his job, and the current state of news and politics.

In recent weeks, Suroosh has returned to the spotlight. As part of a five-part series, Alvi
has traveled the world in order to learn more about global terrorist organizations. He
specifically focuses on al Qaeda, al Shabaab, Tehrik – i- Taliban, Boko Haram, and the Islamic
State. Part I, which focuses on al Qaeda, was released a few weeks ago and provides a very
stark and unbiased view of the current situation that is so often simplified to the binary conflict
of good vs. evil. Part I includes Alvi’s trip to Yemen, where he sat down with clerics tied to al
Qaeda and prominent leader within the organization. These are just some of the many
highlights of Part I. Part II is set to be released on November 10 th . The special series can be
accessed through this link: https://america.cgtn.com/2017/10/30/big-story- al-qaeda.

Alvi and a prominent al Qaeda leader

Alvi and a prominent al Qaeda leader

Nadya Tolokonnikova

Nadya Tolokonnikova, an outspoken member of the Russian rock band Pussy Riot, visited
campus last year to speak to us about her experience as a leader in the feminist movement and
her views about the current political climate. During her time in Russia, Nadya and the rest of
Pussy Riot were among the most critical of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian-like policies. As result,
she was jailed for several months in a prison in Siberia.

Now, Nadya is based out of the US and has expanded her platform to now include criticism of police brutality, homophobia, and President Trump. In a MSNBC interview last week, Nadya wasn’t shy in comparing President Trump’s current administration to the early years of Putin’s regime. She said, “I’ve seen how badly it can turn. I’ve seen it, in front of my eyes, for the last 17 years, and I hear it from Donald Trump the same words about media that Putin was using for 17 years.” Furthermore, recently it was announced that Nadya would be opening an exhibit in the Chelsea suburb of London. The exhibit will feature a replica of Nadya’s jail cell in Siberia in order to show people what she went through during her imprisonment.

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Our second guest in our speaker series last semester was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie is
a Nigerian author of critically acclaimed books such as Purple Hibiscus, Half a Yellow Sun, and
Americanah. However, Adichie is much more than just a great writer. Her books have served as
platform for her to become an intellectual with regards to politics, race, and gender, which she
showed when she spoke in front of packed Shriver Hall last spring.

Adichie’s climb to becoming a “public intellectual” is detailed in a New York Times article
from this past October. One example mentioned is Adichie’s leading role in the feminist
movement. The article mentions how Mari Grazia Chiuri, the first woman creative director at
Dior, sent Adichie a bag and t-shirt she designed in appreciation of Adichie’s role in the ongoing
feminist movement. Moreover, in another article in the Financial Times, Chimamanda speaks
about she has changed from simply being an author to being a symbol of nationalism for her
country. Chimamanda explains how when she moved to the United States, she felt compelled
to adopt western fashion culture, so she would be taken “seriously” when promoting her
literature. “My fiction was getting published, I was keen to be taken seriously. So, I wore what I
imagined would me look worthy of seriousness.” Now that Adichie has gained international
recognition, she is keen to go back to her roots and promote Nigerian fashion and Nigerian

Ai Weiwei

In Undercurrent last spring, Ai Weiwei, the prominent Chinese activist and artist, put on an art
exhibition as one of our six events. As a contemporary artist, Ai Weiwei focuses on using
modern and globally influenced styles to shed light on the different issues of our world. His art
has been so pungent and influential at times that the Chinese government took steps to
imprison him and confiscate his passport a few years ago.

However, Ai Weiwei hasn’t let past troubles get in his way. With the help of Amazon
Studios, he recently released in his first film, Human Flow. The subject of the film is dire
condition of the global migrant crisis. It is filmed in 23 different countries over the course of a
single year. Some of the regions include East Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asian and even
North America. In the film, Ai Weiwei strives to show audiences just how expansive the migrant
crisis is and the dire hopelessness of those living as a refugees and migrants. Initial reviews of
the movie have been exceptional, with rotten Tomatoes giving it a 92%.

A scene from the film

A scene from the film