On Dec. 10, three truly inspiring women – Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, and Yemeni Tawakkol Karman -were jointly awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize in a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. This ceremony was of particular importance to Assistant Professor of Political Science Stacey Philbrick Yadav, who traveled to Oslo to participate in the festivities.
Philbrick Yadav has been doing field research in Yemen since 2004, focusing on the development of cross-ideological political opposition. Karman, a journalist and political activist, was someone Philbrick Yadav interviewed in the course of her work, discussing the role that Karman has played in the Islamist Islah party and the Joint Meeting Parties opposition alliance. When the list of laureates was released in October, Philbrick Yadav wrote an article that was published in the Middle East Report examining Karman’s work and role in Yemeni politics. (available here: http://merip.org/mero/mero102111) Shortly after, the Nobel Peace Center reached out to her and asked for her help with creating the exhibit honoring this year’s laureates.
The exhibit, titled SHEROES, is housed at the Nobel Peace Center, which exists to “spur reflection and debate on issues relating to war, peace, and conflict resolution,” according to the organization’s website.
“It was really a great honor to be a part of something like this,” says Philbrick Yadav. “The Center is visited by more than 800 student groups annually plus individual visitors from all around the world. I was happy to help convey Tawakkol Karman’s message of non-violent resistance to authoritarianism to an audience of young people who are eager to know more about her and what she represents.”
After working on the text for the exhibit, Philbrick Yadav received an official invitation to attend the exhibit opening earlier this month and related festivities. With the support of the Office of the Provost, she happily accepted the invitation.
“Things were very busy and exciting while I was in Oslo,” shares Philbrick Yadav. “I spent time training Nobel Peace Center educators, the people who will be giving tours and running student workshops, and I had a chance to preview the exhibition the day before the opening. It is visually stunning and very interactive – I was really impressed.”
In addition, Philbrick Yadav was interviewed by members of the Norwegian press about Karman’s work and reactions to the Nobel Lecture, and had a brief meeting with Karman herself. After the opening of the exhibit, which included an address by the laureates, Philbrick Yadav attended the gala concert that closed the event.
While the award ceremony and exhibit opening were of intellectual and personal interest, Philbrick Yadav remembers the concert as the highlight of the trip. “Everything went off without a hitch at the opening, and we were all able to just enjoy an evening of celebration, honoring the amazing peace-building and revolutionary work of the laureates. The music was pretty good, too.”
Upon returning home, Philbrick Yadav published an article in Foreign Policy magazine reflecting on her experience in Oslo and the broader significance of Karman’s continued work. [Available here:
Philbrick Yadav received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies from Smith College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of several recent journal articles on political opposition in Yemen and Lebanon, and is completing a book on the subject of Islamist parliamentary opposition in the two countries. In 2008, Philbrick Yadav was a visiting researcher at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. Before coming to HWS, she taught at Mount Holyoke College and the University of Pennsylvania, and lived and worked in Egypt, Lebanon and Yemen from 2003-2006, returning on a number of occasions since then to continue her research.
In the photo above, Philbrick Yadav is standing at the entrance of the SHEROES exhibit at the Nobel Peace Center.