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Katrina Ponti

May Postdoctoral Fellow in History and Policy
Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School



I am an Ernest May Postdoctoral fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center. I received my Ph.D. in American History at the University of Rochester. Previously, I studied Political Science at Penn State University. I also received my MA in History at Millersville University. 

My research explores how American citizen diplomats created strategies to help shape a global environment favorable to U.S. interests and how they created a previously unseen type of democratic diplomacy at the beginning of the long nineteenth century (1783-1818). By encouraging person-to-person interactions abroad, the U.S. government gave public diplomats power and latitude to create peaceful dialogues between the U.S. and representatives of foreign governments; establish economic priorities; and create transnational spaces in which larger numbers of Americans could participate in diplomatic engagement. By looking at the historic diaries and activities of American citizen diplomats from more than a dozen archives in four countries, my dissertation frames American public diplomacy as necessary for national survival in a political moment of great uncertainty. To understand the role of the citizen diplomat, I believe, is to understand a transitive moment in global diplomacy after the American Revolution and before the Congress of Vienna, which routinized diplomatic practices between nations. It is also to understand the shift in the relationship between governments and their citizens abroad, as well as the redefinition of diplomatic service in the age of revolutions.

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