Hanan Asrawi is one of two Christian members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.  She was first elected to serve in the council in 1996 and served as the Minister of Higher Education, a cabinet position in the Arafat government, between 1996-1998. 

In August of 1998, she founded the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy. She also was the 2000 Sanford S. Elberg lecturer at the University of California - Berkeley.

The  official spokesperson for the Palestinian delegation at the Madrid peace negotiations from 1991 to 1993, Ashrawi later founded and headed the Preparatory Committee of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights after Palestinian self-rule was established.

Ashrawi was a faculty member at Bir Zeit University on the West Bank from 1973-1995.  She established its Department of English as the university was transforming itself from a two-year college to a four-year institution.  She chaired that department from 1973 to 1978 and again from 1981 through 1984; and from 1986-1990 she served the university as Dean of the Faculty of Arts.

Her political work took a leap in 1988 during the Intifada uprising, when she joined the Intifada Political Committee, serving on its Diplomatic Committee until 1993.  Her activities in politics began in 1974, while the university was suffering intermittent closures by the Israeli military.  Ashrawi founded the Bir Zeit University Legal Aid Committee/Human Rights Action Project. 

In the field of literature, she is author of The Modern Palestinian Short Story: An Introduction to Practical Criticism; Contemporary Palestinian Literature under Occupation; Contemporary Palestinian Poetry and Fiction; and Literary Translation: Theory and Practice.  She has also written From Intifada to Independence, and her autobiography, This Side of Peace: A Personal Account, which recounts her time as an envoy. 

Ashrawi is a member of the Independent International Commission on Kosovo and of numerous international advisory boards including the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Bank Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA), and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD).

Ashrawi received her Bachelor and Master's degrees in literature in the Department of English at the American University of Beirut. She earned her Ph.D. in Medieval and Comparative Literature from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Ashrawi was born in Ramallah in 1947 and lives in Jerusalem.