Samantha Power, A Transnational Powerhouse

The work of Samantha Power, the current US Ambassador to the United Nations, embodies an intersection of academia and policy that I feel is particularly relevant to our course.

Power was born in Ireland, and immigrated to Pennsylvania with her family as a child; Power’s status as an immigrant renders the success of her wide, influential reach somewhat as a realization of the classic “American Dream,” the great diasporic script attempted by thousands who have come before and after. After completing her undergraduate education at Yale, Power spent three years (’93-6) working as a journalist, covering the Yugoslav Wars for prominent American publications. Upon returning to the States, she received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and began publishing scholarly work investigating the intersection of US foreign policy with human rights and genocide. In addition to a subsequent professorship at Harvard, Power served as the Founding Executive Director off the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Much like our own Pozen Family Center for Human Rights here at UChicago, the Carr Center is a research body concerned with applying human rights research to the solution of public policy problems; an important blending of theory and practice to address some of the issues that can be said to result from the irregular motion of Appadurai’s scapes. I think that the installation of such bodies within academic institutions is a vital step towards the canonization of human rights concepts in foreign policy, which is necessary for developing transnational humanitarianism.

Furthermore, Power has been involved with President Obama since his Senate days, also working in the State Department, the US mission to the United Nations, and the National Security Council under his Presidential administration. She now serves as the US ambassador to the UN, a position she has held since June 2013. Throughout her various roles, Power has unfailingly been hailed as a champion of genocide prevention and the prevention of mass atrocities, specifically for bringing such issues to the forefront of high-level interagency government attention. Much of her writing concerns the topical, localized application of the transnational theory that we’ve read in this course: what do the transnational communities molded by diasporas, by empire and its dissolution, by difficulties of communication, do once they are formed? What happens when conflicting communities inhabit the same space? This is the world that we’re living in: how can humane governance progress?

– Isabella Mckinley-Corbo

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