Dr. Johanna Mendelson Forman
With more than two decades of experience in the international arena, working on post-conflict transition and democratization issues, Johanna Mendelson Forman holds a wealth of expertise and insights into the role of food in driving conflict and connecting people and communities. An Adjunct Professor at American University’s School of International Service where she teaches Conflict Cuisine®: An Introduction to War and Peace Around the Dinner Table, Mendelson Forman encourages new ways of looking at diplomacy, conflict resolution, and civic engagement. She is also a Senior Advisor at the Stimson Center where she directs the Food Security program.
Recognizing that Washington’s culinary landscape often reflects global conflicts with the opening of new ethnic restaurants, Mendelson Forman was inspired to connect food and war as a tool for teaching how food is a form of Smart Power as well as a driver of conflict. Linking food and conflict has also allowed her to develop a new interdisciplinary platform for examining why food is central to both survival and resilience in zones of conflict. The course has been recognized twice as an example of innovation in college offerings.
An expert on post-conflict transition and democratization issues, Mendelson Forman holds regional expertise in the Americas, with a special focus on the Caribbean, Central America and Brazil. She also has had extensive field experience for the U.S. government on transition initiatives in Haiti, Iraq, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her frontline experience as a policy maker on conflict and stabilization efforts from Haiti to Rwanda drove her interest in connecting the role of food in conflict. She serves as a Senior Advisor with the Managing Across Boundaries Program at the Stimson Center, where she works on security and development issues with a focus on food, and is also a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Program on Crisis, Conflict, and Cooperation.
Mendelson Forman has written extensively about food and conflict, and topics related to Latin America. Her work has been published in a wide-range of publications including, the Miami Herald, Washington Post, Americas Quarterly, The Globalist, VOXXI, Estadao, El Universal, and World Politics Review, and has been cited in NPR’s The Salt, LeFigaro, Salon, and Italia Oggi, and This Week. She frequently appears on national media including National Public Radio, Univision, and CNN. Mendelson Forman has lectured on food related topics at the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program, Johns Hopkins University Bologna Campus, New York University’s Washington Program, and at the United States Pavilion at the 2015 World Expo in Milan, Italy. She also writes a column on conflict cuisines for the DCist, a local Washington blog post.
Previously, Mendelson Forman served as the Director of Peace, Security, and Human Rights at the UN Foundation. She has held senior positions in the U.S. Agency for International Development helping create the Office of Transition Initiatives, and serving as a Senior Adviser for Humanitarian Response, as well as at the World Bank’s Post Conflict Unit. She served as a Senior Advisor to the UN Mission in Haiti.
Mendelson Forman is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds a J.D. from Washington College of Law at American University, a Ph.D. in Latin American history from Washington University, St. Louis, and a Master’s of International Affairs, with a certificate of Latin America studies from Columbia University in New York. She is a passionate collector of Latin America folk art, and shares her great love for food of the Americas with friends and family. She is married to David Forman, an attorney, and is the proud mother of the lead guitarist in the punk rock group, Priests.
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