Sarah B. Snyder is a historian of U.S. foreign relations who specializes in the history of the Cold War, human rights activism, and U.S. human rights policy. She is the author of two award-winning books. From Selma to Moscow: How Human Rights Activists Transformed U.S. Foreign Policy (2018) explains how transnational connections and 1960s-era social movements inspired Americans to advocate for a new approach to human rights. Her first book, Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network (2011), analyzes the development of a transnational network devoted to human rights advocacy and its contributions to the end of the Cold War. She is also the co-editor with Nicolas Badalassi of The CSCE and the End of the Cold War: Diplomacy, Societies and Human Rights, 1972-1990 (2018). In addition to authoring several chapters in edited collections, she has also published articles in Diplomatic History, Cold War History, Human Rights Quarterly, Diplomacy & Statecraft, Journal of Transatlantic Studies, European Journal of Human Rights and Journal of American Studies. She previously served as a Lecturer at University College London and as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University.
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.