Savitri Maya Kunze

Savitri Maya Kunze is a historian of nineteenth and twentieth-century human rights and international sovereignty. Her research and teaching interests include human rights and humanitarianism, America and the World, 19th and 20th century US, and the intersection of international diplomacy, transnational migration, deportation regimes, and citizenship. Her research investigates how the rights of stateless persons in the US help explain the transnational human rights norms in the first half of the twentieth century. 

Savi is currently transforming her dissertation into a book manuscript, The Undeportables: Diplomatic Nonrecognition and the Periphery of Rights in the United States. Set against the backdrop of the United States emergence as an imperial power from the turn of the century through World War II, The Undeportables explores what it meant that the federal government could not deport people it had identified as undesirable, even as it enacted strict immigration protocols in the first decades of the twentieth century. The project takes this problem as an entry point to investigate how the processes of immigration and deportation created contradictions between sovereignty and rights and how bureaucrats in the US and their counterparts around the world attempted to resolve those contradictions. Their attempts to reconcile this problem determined who had access to the nation-state and reimagined an increasingly interconnected world where every person had rights. In focusing on the influence of rogue bureaucrats and opportunistic businesses in this experimental period, The Undeportables explains the active role of the informal transnational realm in US foreign policy and the formalization of international norms. 

Savi is a postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division. She received a PhD in US and International History from the University of Chicago and a BA in History from Oberlin College.