Edited by Christopher Merrill


trust me I'm an expert:

talking culture from inside and out

Nushin Arbabzadah Research Scholar, UCLA Center for the Study of Women

Nushin Arbabzadah is an Afghan author, journalist, analyst and translator, who grew up in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation before fleeing to Germany with her family. Before coming to UCLA, Nushin worked for the British Council, running literary and journalistic projects on intercultural communication, with a focus on dialogue with the Muslim world. In 2005, she joined the BBC, where she specialized in media, politics and society in contemporary Afghanistan. Her first book, From Outside In: Refugees and British Society, was published in London by Arcadia in 2007. She has also edited an anthology of writings by young journalists of different religious backgrounds living in Muslim majority countries, No Ordinary Life: Being Young in the Worlds of Islam, published by the British Council in 2007. Her other editing work includes a collection of short stories by the celebrated Iranian writer, Sadeq Hedayat. Her first literary translation is the memoir of an imprisoned Iranian journalist, Houshang Assadie, Letters to My Torturer (OneWorld, 2010). She regularly writes for The Guardian on contemporary Afghanistan.

Reza Aslan, President & CEO, Aslan Media, Inc
Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is a contributing editor at the Daily Beast. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues, Abraham’s Vision, an interfaith peace organization, and PEN USA, which champions the rights of writers under siege around the world. His first book is No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, which has been translated into thirteen languages, and named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade. He is also the author of How to Win a Cosmic War (published in paperback as Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age), and editor of an upcoming anthology from Norton titled Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East. He is President and CEO of Aslan Media Inc, whose holdings include BoomGen Studios, a mini-motion picture and media company focused entirely on entertainment about the Greater Middle East and its Diaspora communities. Born in Iran, he now lives in Los Angeles where he is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside.

Steve Clemons, Director, American Strategy Program, New America Foundation
Steve Clemons directs the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation; he is also a Senior Fellow at New America, and previously served as Executive Vice President. Publisher of the popular political blog The Washington Note, Steve is a long-term policy practitioner and entrepreneur in Washington, D.C. He has served as Executive Vice President of the Economic Strategy Institute, Senior Policy Advisor on Economic and International Affairs to Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and was the first Executive Director of the Nixon Center. Prior to moving to Washington, he served as Executive Director of the Japan America Society of Southern California, and co-founded with Chalmers Johnson the Japan Policy Research Institute. He is a Member of the Board of the Clarke Center at Dickinson College, as well as an Advisory Board Member of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College. He is also a Board Member of the Global Policy Innovations Program at the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs and on the advisory board of the Robert Bosch Foundation Alumni Association. He also serves as editor-at-large of TPM Media and Talking Points Memo. He writes frequently on matters of foreign policy, defense, and international economic policy. His work has appeared in many of the major leading op-ed pages, journals, and magazines around the world.

Christina Lamb, Washington Bureau Chief, The Sunday Times
Christina Lamb recently became U.S. editor of The Sunday Times and is based in Washington after 22 years wandering the world’s hotspots first for the Financial Times, then The Sunday Times. She first went to Afghanistan in 1987 after an invitation to a wedding in Pakistan led her to fall in love with the region. She celebrated her 22nd birthday driving a motor rickshaw round Peshawar bazaar. Her reporting from Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation saw her named Young Journalist of the Year in the British Press Awards. Since then she has been named Foreign Correspondent of the Year five times and last year won the Prix Bayeux, Europe’s top prize for war reporting. The ASHA Foundation chose her as one of their inspirational women worldwide, with her portrait featuring in a special exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Britain’s top selling woman’s magazine Grazia chose her as one of their Icons of the Decade. She is the author of the bestselling book The Africa House as well as House of Stone: The True Story of a Family Divided in Wartorn Zimbabwe; Waiting for Allah: Pakistan’s Struggle For Democracy; and The Sewing Circle of Herat: My Afghan Years. Her most recent book is Small Wars Permitting: Despatches from Foreign Lands, a collection of her reportage. Her new book The Wrong War, about Afghanistan and Pakistan, will be published in 2011. Her work has appeared in many publications including the New York Times, New Statesman, Spectator, Time magazine and Conde Nast Traveller. As the first journalist to have access to the transcripts of interrogations of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, her investigation was the subject of an ABC Nightline program. She is a frequent commentator on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Zimbabwe on radio and television in Britain, Canada, Australia and the US; has given talks to schools, Members of Parliament, NATO, the military and the Imperial War Museum; and taught literary nonfiction at the Arvon Foundation. She is also a regular commentator on Sky TV and BBC. She is on the board of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and a patron of the charities Afghan Connection and Hope for Children.

Sarah E. Lewis, Doctoral Candidate, Yale University, History of Art Department / Critic, Yale University School of Art
Sarah E. Lewis is a writer, curator and faculty member at the Yale School of Art. Prior to joining the faculty at Yale School of Art, she held curatorial positions at the Tate Modern, London and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and was Co-Curator for the 2010 SITE Santa Fe Biennial. A member of President Obama’s Arts Policy Committee, she is a Trustee of the Brearley School, a former Elected Director for Harvard University and is currently a prospective candidate for a Deputy Director level post at the National Endowment for the Arts. Her writing has been published extensively in publications for Rizzoli, Phaidon, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of African American History and Culture, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Nasher Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, Artforum and Art in America. She received her B.A. from Harvard University, an M.Phil from Oxford University and is completing her PhD at Yale University.

How do citizens and countries want to be perceived abroad? What kinds of representation of our own and other cultures are acceptable and who decides? Trust Me, I’m An Expert explores the many ways we explain our culture and portray other societies while illuminating our most pressing concerns. 

Inspired by the Tricycle Theatre’s The Great Game: Afghanistan—an epic dramatic survey of foreign engagement in Central Asia from the 1840s to the present day—this anthology of essays from six distinguished writers offers an opportunity to examine a host of issues including: the knowledge necessary to make informed judgments and decisions, how the arts can help us understand conflict, the place of religion in the formation of identity and the nature of expertise itself.

Editor Christopher Merrill begins the discussion with a close look at The Great Game: Afghanistan, exploring how the plays’ perspective on Afghan, British, American and Russian interactions speaks to theater’s unique ability to illuminate causality, current issues and our interconnected world. Other contributors include Nushin Arbabzadah, Reza Aslan, Steve Clemons, Christina Lamb, and Sarah E. Lewis (see bios below).

With a foreword by General Sir David Richards, Chief of the General Staff, British Ministry of Defence.