National reporter discusses views on America

Julie Balzarini

The Institute for Global Interdisciplinary Studies welcomed Amar Bakshi to speak on “How the World Sees America” yesterday in Connelly Center from 3-6 p.m.

Bakshi spent the past year traveling the globe, reporting daily on people’s views of America and the impact on their lives for the online editions of The Washington Post and Newsweek.

 “When viewing the way America is perceived, it is important we look at the narratives constructed over generations by societies about how they interact with the U.S. and look beyond the short term time frame,” Bakshi wrote in an e-mail.

Bakshi stressed the importance of looking at these feelings as a whole. 

“Realize these are long-term narratives,” Bakshi wrote.

While working on his senior thesis in Zimbabwe, Bakshi had his eyes opened to the issue of anti-Americanism.

Placed in jail for five days, the Harvard alumnus was harassed by guards for being an American, but he later discovered they were also fascinated with aspects of his American culture.

“I had a desire to tell the stories of people that you don’t often hear from in papers,” Bakshi wrote.

Eventually evolving into a two-part endeavor, Bakshi’s quest began in England, where he first stopped in Manchester before making his way to Oxford, Lancaster, London and eventually Pakistan and India. Bakshi also visited Turkey, Venezuela, Mexico, Lebanon, Israel and other countries to learn more about opinions about his homeland.

“I loved how unexpected it was,” Bakshi wrote. “I was surprised by how many people, of all political persuasions, wanted to be in conversation with Americans and America.  Surely this is a cause for confidence and hope.”

On his Web page at, Bakshi preceded his journey with a promise to “find these stories the old-fashioned way, with a bunch of one-way tickets and the soles of my shoes.”

According to his Web site, Bakshir set out with the goals of forming “a community of global users who ask and answer questions of one another, not just about politics but also about ways of life. 

“The goal is to create conversations, to show the humanity of distant populations and, perhaps, to promote diplomacy led by citizens and journalists together.”

His daily articles and videos chronicle the opinions of a diverse global population.

Bakshi wrote that he found the most anti-American sentiments in Pakistan and Turkey, but parts of India, the Philippines, and Israel were most notably pro-American.

For instance, at a university in Venezuela, Bakshi found posters in the library showing a mouse painted with the stars and stripes caught in a trap, and student Elvis Garcia articulated his gratitude for his country’s state-sponsored universities in contrast to America where he said “only the rich learn.”

Bakshi also came upon citizens of other countries who had strong opinions about our current presidential race.

In Venezuela, a teacher commented that citizens of his country “don’t fixate on Obama as the first black candidate … and we’re really puzzled by the way Americans do. It seems to us like a form of racism.”

Bakshi noticed that many cultural differences between the rest of the world and the United States were highlighted by aspects of popular culture, such as sports.

In Mexico City, Bakshi encountered wrestling fans who juxtaposed their acrobatic version of the sport with America’s entertainment-focused wrestling.

Under each text and video entry on his Web site is a form for his audience to leave comments, which include encouragement, concurrence, critics and disagreements.

With hundreds of responses to each entry, Bakshir’s journey formed an international community of intelligent political and social discussion.