Global Lens

Perry World House’s Global Lens program explores global issues through arts and culture. Throughout the academic year, we host events that examine critical global developments through cuisine, dance, music, film, literature, and the visual arts.

Our programs have included celebrity chefs and a Syrian refugee cooking a traditional meal together, to shine a light on how refugees use food to retain and share their cultural heritage after being forced to flee home; diplomats discussing the importance of music to build trust between nations; and a book talk examining how science fiction can help us be more imaginative about addressing the climate crisis.

Learn more about our Global Lens programming thus far, and upcoming opportunities. For events in 2021-22 and 2020-21, we’ve created a YouTube playlist where you can watch recordings on-demand.

Shirin Neshat speaks at Perry World House
Shirin Neshat speaks at Perry World House, March 2022 | Image credit: Eric Sucar


Building Community: How the Arts Can Help Afghan Refugees

Join Perry World House and the refugee advocacy group One Journey for this conversation on how the arts can help Afghan refugees to recover from the trauma they have suffered and rebuild their lives in new places.


The Vow from Hiroshima: Film, Advocacy, and Nuclear Disarmament

This conversation in April 2022 centered on The Vow from Hiroshima, a documentary about atomic bombing survivor Setsuko Thurlow. The panel, which included the film's director and producer, Susan Strickler and Mitchie Takeuchi, as well as Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' President and CEO Rachel Bronson. They talked about the global movement to ban nuclear weapons and the generational trauma suffered by the families of atomic bombing survivors.


This event in April 2022 looked at Oscar-nominated animated film Flee, which follows Afghan refugee Amin Nawabi as he grapples with a painful secret he has kept hidden for 20 years - one that threatens to disrupt the life he has built in Europe with his future husband. Penn Law's Fernando Chang-Muy and Human Rights Watch's Graeme Reid discussed asylum protections for LGBTQ migrants, the challenges and dangers facing LGBTQ people in many countries, and more.

Artist’s Talk: Shirin Neshat

This lecture in March 2022, co-hosted with the Arthur Ross Gallery, featured acclaimed Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat. She looked back at key works in her creative career, where she focuses on issues including race, gender, religion, and power. Nehsat also discussed her most recent film, Land of Dreams, which was completed in the summer of 2021 and premiered at the Venice Film Festival.

The Healing Power of Self-Expression: Photography by Female Refugee Artists

This event in February 2022, co-hosted with One Journey, Penn Cinema and Media Studies, TD Bank, and the Art 4 Humanity Foundation (A4HF), featured two refugee artists from the Photography School, located in a refugee camp in Diavata, Greece. The artists shared how photography has helped them reclaim their voices, express their past experiences, and share their hope for the future.

Amanda Freitag cooks kibbeh
Chef Amanda Freitag cooks kibbeh at our culinary diplomacy Global Lens event, September 2020


Hard Beats and Soft Power: Music in International Diplomacy

In April 2021, Perry World House hosted a virtual event with diplomats and musicians Lolita Jackson, Alexander Vershbow, and András Simonyi about how music can be used as a tool in international relations. They discussed how countries use their musicians as part of cultural diplomacy and how music can promote greater international understanding.

The Ministry for the Future: Climate Change and Speculative Fiction

In April 2021, Perry World House held a virtual conversation with legendary science-fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson about his new novel, The Ministry for the Future. The book imagines a world where climate action has failed. With Perry World House's Michael Weisberg, Robinson discussed how speculative fiction of this kind can inform global policy, and how the wold can avoid the worst-case scenarios of climate change.

Culinary Diplomacy: International Cooperation, One Bite at a Time

Cooking is central to human life, culture, and politics around the world. Food can be a literal carrot or stick in international relations, and culinary diplomacy has become a major part of many countries' soft power initiatives. This event in September 2020 looked at how to use food to bring people together and encourage cross-cultural understanding, with a live demonstration of how to make traditional kibbeh, featuring Syrian-American activist Ed Beetar, celebrity chefs Amanda Freitag and Marc Murphy, and the Culinary Diplomacy Project's Lauren Bernstein.

Educator TY Christen Joseph discusses his journey to Ethiopia, October 2019
Educator Ty Christen Joseph discusses his journey to Ethiopia, October 2019


One Journey Film Festival: The Refugee Experience on Film

Perry World House, Penn Cinema and Media Studies, and One Journey hosted a screening of three short films on the refugee experience in January 2020. The films were preceded by a panel discussion featuring Penn professor Peter Decherney, former refugee and entrepreneur ZarZo Lian, HIAS Pennsylvania's Cathryn Miller Wilson, Perry World House's Jocelyn Perry, and former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne Richard.

Breathe In the Roots: A Journey of Discovery Across Ethiopia

In October 2019, Perry World House hosted a screening of Breathe in the Roots, a documentary following educator and social worker Ty Christen Joseph's journey across Ethiopia. This event also featured Penn alumnus Indrias G. Kassaye, director of the film, discussing how storytelling can help us understand complex global issues.

Gender and Violence in Rebel-Held Northern Syria

Award-winning Syrian journalist and Perry World House Writer-at-Risk Zaina Erhaim joined Perry World House in October 2019 for a screening of six short films she produced about women living in rebel-held northern Syria. Following the screening, she discussed the Syrian Civil War and its impact on women with Ahed Festuk, an activist featured in one of the films.

Dragon display at fall student social, September 2018
Dragon display at fall student social, September 2018


Shattering Refuge: Film Screening and Panel Discussion on Forced Displacement and Refugee Rights

In February 2019, Perry World House screened the documentary Shattering Refuge, directed by Penn Junior Soniari Chidi. The film looks at the role of the media as an instigator or observer in the global refugee crisis. The discussion featured Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Michel Gabaudan, former President of Refugees International; Sozi Tulante, former Philadelphia City Solicitor; Emma Restrepo, immigration reporter for DosPuntos, and Fatemeh Shams, Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Penn.

82 Names: Syria, Please Don’t Forget Us

In December 2018, Perry World House held a screening of 82 Names: Syria, Please Don't Forget Us, a film following Mansour Omari, a survivor of torture and imprisonment in Syria, as he rebuilds his life in Europe. Inspired by visiting sites in Germany that memorialize victims of the Holocaust, he worked with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to create an exhibition that would bring attention to the brutal regime he escaped and counter extremist ideology in the future. This event featured Omari, Syrian journalist and activist Zaina Erhaim, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Naomi Kikoler to discuss the film and documenting atrocities.

Fall 2018 Student Social

In September 2018, Perry World House hosted a fall social for international students, showcasing food, music, and dancing from around the world.

Former Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova speaks at Perry World House, January 2018
Former Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova speaks at Perry World House, January 2018


Cultural Lens with Irina Bokova

In January 2018, in partnership with the Global Philadelphia Association, Perry World House held an event with former Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, Global Philadelphia Association's Zabeth Teelucksingh, and Penn's Brian Daniels. They discussed the power of culture and heritage to bring the world together.

A Global Perspective: The International Penn Experience

This event in November 2017, co-hosted with Penn International Student and Scholar Services, was an opportunity for the Penn community to discuss issues facing international students in the U.S., such as logistical challenges and cultural barriers.

Fall 2017 Student Social

In September 2017,  Perry World House hosted a fall social for international students, showcasing food, music, and dancing from around the world.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Poster for 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi'


Jiro Dreams of Sushi

As study season got underway at Penn in March 2017, Perry World House hosted a screening of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary charting the journey of 85-year-old Jiro Ono, considered one of the world's greatest sushi chefs.