This lecture will show that the traditional distinction between official and unofficial diplomats misses the complex roles that American expatriates play in their host communities. It explores the ways Americans living abroad enhance, muddle, and damage the United States’ relations with foreign governments and their peoples.
Private Americans living abroad influence U.S. foreign relations in myriad ways, including serving as informal diplomats to foreign communities, serving as resources for U.S. officials, and even precipitating diplomatic crises. American expatriates can enhance American “soft power” in a country, particularly by offering access to advanced medical care, specialized training, and English-language lessons. When they are kidnapped, murdered, or arrested, however, these Americans can shape U.S. foreign policy in unexpected and potentially damaging ways. Snyder will describe the broad history of Americans living overseas through deep research that reveals the distinctiveness of individuals’ experiences and their significance for U.S. foreign policy.