Kaete O’Connell, Ph.D.

I am a historian and Assistant Director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, International Security Studies, Yale University. Trained as a historian of the U.S. and the world, my interests lie at the intersections of conflict and culture, development and democracy, and food security and the environment. I am particularly interested in food diplomacy, the use of a nation’s resources to shape international politics, influence global markets, and foster cultural understanding.

I received my PhD from Temple University in 2019. Before coming to Grand Strategy, I was a Kissinger Visiting Scholar at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and a postdoctoral fellow at Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History. I also served as Assistant Director at the Center for the Humanities at Temple (CHAT), was a fellow in residence at the Leibniz Institute for European History in Mainz, and spent a year teaching in the American Studies department at the University of Tübingen.

My forthcoming book illuminates the historical complexities behind U.S. policymakers’ embrace of food as a diplomatic tool in the early Cold War. Under contract with the University of Virginia Press, Tasting Freedom: U.S. Occupied Germany and the Origins of Cold War Food Diplomacy provides the first in-depth study of food policy in the U.S. Zone. It argues that the origins of food aid as an anti-communist strategy are located in postwar Germany.

I’m currently at work on two book projects. The first examines presidential gastrodiplomacy through a series of case studies. It offers a closer look at state dinners from President Grant to the Obama White House, to help us better understand food, and dining, as a method of political engagement. The second is a history of 1948. It studies the relationship between the foreign and domestic to unravel how Americans experienced a year of momentous change.