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Christen Smith


Core FacultyPh.D., Cultural and Social Anthropology, Stanford University

Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts
Christen Smith

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Interests


Performance, racial formation, the black body, violence, black women and transnational struggle, black liberation and resistance in the Americas (particularly Brazil and the United States)

Biography


Christen Smith is an assistant professor of Anthropology and African and African American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. She received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Princeton University and her Ph.D. in cultural and social anthropology from Stanford University.Her work focuses on gendered anti-Black state violence and Black communities' responses to it in Brazil and the Americas. She is particularly interested in the performative aspects of anti-Black violence, transnational Black liberation struggles and global racial formation. She also researches Black women’s experiences with state violence, anti-Black policing in the Americas, death squads, the paradoxical relationship between Black people and the nation-state in the Americas, and violence and racial representation. Her book, Afro-Paradise: Blackness, Violence and Performance in Brazil (University of Illinois Press, 2016) explores the visual and performatic economies of the Black body in pain as an ironic transfer point for the production of Brazil’s racial state. 

 

Additional affiliations: Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS), Warfield Center for African and African-American Studies, Center for Women and Gender Studies (CWGS),

Courses taught:

 

Undergraduate: Politics of Race and Violence in Brazil; Black Women, Struggle and the Transnational State; Anthropology for Liberation?

 

Graduate: Race, Violence and Brazil; Performance, Race, Violence and the Body; Violence, Trauma, Memory

 

 

Courses


WGS 340 • Pol Of Race/Violnc Brazil

46940 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm SAC 4.118
(also listed as AFR 374E, ANT 324L, LAS 324L)

This course explores race/gender/sexuality, violence and everyday life in Brazil. Brazil’s history has been characterized by moments of violent encounter, from colonization, to slavery, to clashes between police and residents across its major cities today. These violent encounters have been, in many ways, racialized, gendered and sexualized. This class investigates the race/gender/sexuality aspects of multiple forms of violence in Brazil, and how this violence creates, defines and maintains social hierarchies in the nation. Throughout the class we will think through the question “what is violence?” as we discuss the concept’s physical, structural and symbolic forms. The course pays particular attention to the politics of blackness and the unique relationship black Brazilians have to the nation-state. We will also discuss the politics of writing and theorizing violence when doing social analysis, and the precarious balance between defining and addressing issues of violence, and glorifying it. Objectives: 1) To think critically about violence not only as a physical encounter, but a multilayered phenomenon that manifests itself in different ways; 2) To consider how race functions in Brazil and what violence has to do with it; 3) To better understand the politics of discussing and writing about race and violence particularly within the field of anthropology. Key topics: Colonization, slavery, blackness, whiteness, racial democracy, urban conflict, police repression, death, gender, sexuality, urban cleansing/gentrification, land conflict, imprisonment, symbolic violence, structural violence, physical violence, and genocide. 

WGS 393 • Performnc/Race/Violence/Body

47140 • Fall 2016
Meets TH 100pm-400pm SAC 4.120
(also listed as AFR 387D, ANT 391, LAS 391)

Course Description:

This course examines the complex relationship between performance, the body politic,violence, race and gender. Course participants will engage with a survey of texts that interrogate this relationshipfrom the colonial/conquest/slavery period through today. The focus, while global, will primarily concentrate on theAmericas. Using the ethnographic and theoretical lens of performance, performativity and enactment, we willexamine the multivalent layers of violent repression at work within multiple societies at various temporal moments.Within this framework, participants will critically reflect upon how violence, in its alternate forms, impacts identityformation by inscribing race, gender and sexuality onto the body at multiple social and culture junctures. One of theprimary objectives of the course is to theoretically engage with the relationship between the body, identity, and state,structural and symbolic violence. Addressing the politics of representation as a principle theme, we interrogate howtheories of performance make power somatically legible, and how the relationship between performance and thebody have everything to do with social order and repression.

Objectives:

1) To critically engage with the body politics of race, gender and sexuality; 2) To define and analyze themechanisms of representation; 4) To define and analyze multiple aspects of performance, performativity andenactment; 5) To define and analyze violence; 6) To critically engage with the performative aspects of violence andhow they relate to the politics of representation; 6) To link violence and representation historically; 7) To analyze therole the state plays in the production of bodies and identity through violent acts; 8) To reflect critically on the politicsof the social production of the body.

WGS 340 • Black Women/Transnatl State

46165 • Spring 2016
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm SAC 5.102
(also listed as AFR 372F, ANT 324L, LAS 324L)

This course surveys black women’s experiences living with and confronting state oppression around the world. From the United States to Brazil, black women experience similar patterns of political, social and economic inequality. Transnationally, racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, and classism affect the quality of life of black women, particularly within nation-states with legacies of slavery and colonialism. This course takes an historical, social and theoretical look at the roots of this inequality and how black women have chosen to respond to it locally and globally. How have interlocking forms of oppression affected black women’s citizenship within the modern nation-state? How have black women, in turn, sought to organize themselves in response to this oppression?

Objectives

1) To think critically about the multiple forms of oppression that affect black women’s lives globally;

2) To consider how black women’s political identity has been defined by experiences with oppression transnationally;

3) To define and articulate black women’s agency in response to oppression

Key Topics: Racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, classism, transnationalism, representation, agency, black feminism.

WGS 340 • Anthropology For Liberation

46044 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 930am-1100am SAC 5.118
(also listed as AFR 372C, ANT 324L)

WGS 340 • Black Women/Transnatl State

46685 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm GEA 127
(also listed as AFR 372F, ANT 324L, LAS 324L)

This course surveys black women’s experiences living with and confronting state

oppression around the world. From the United States to Brazil, black women experience

similar patterns of political, social and economic inequality. Transnationally, racism,

sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, and classism affect the quality of life of black women,

particularly within nation-states with legacies of slavery and colonialism. This course

takes an historical, social and theoretical look at the roots of this inequality and how

black women have chosen to respond to it locally and globally. How have interlocking

forms of oppression affected black women’s citizenship within the modern nation-state?

How have black women, in turn, sought to organize themselves in response to this

oppression?

Objectives 1) To think critically about the multiple forms of oppression that affect black women’s

lives globally; 2) To consider how black women’s political identity has been defined by

experiences with oppression transnationally; 3) To define and articulate black women’s agency in

response to oppression

Key Topics: Racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, classism, transnationalism,

representation, agency, black feminism.

WGS 393 • Performnc/Race/Violence/Body

46845 • Spring 2015
Meets TH 900am-1200pm CBA 4.342
(also listed as AFR 387D, ANT 391)

This course examines the complex relationship between performance, the body politic, violence, race, and gender. Course participants will engage with a survey of texts that interrogate thiis relationship from the colonial/conquest//slavery period through today. The focus, while global, will primarily concentrate on the Americas. Using the ethnographic and theoretical lens of performance, performativity, and enactment, we will examine the multivalent layes of violent repression at work within multiple societies at various temporal moments. Within this framework, participants will critically reflect upon how violence, in its alternate forms, impacts identity formation by inscribing race, gender, and sexuality onto the body at multiple social and cultutral junctures. One og the primaru objectives of the course is to theoretically engage with the relationship between the body, identity, and state, structural and symbolic violence. Addressing the politics of representation as a principle theme, we interrogate how theories of performance make power somatically legible, and how the relationship between performance and the body have everything to do with social order and repression.

 

 

WGS 340 • Anthropology For Liberation

47989 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 930am-1100am UTC 1.116
(also listed as AFR 372C, ANT 324L)

The discipline of anthropology has a long, tense history with its colonial past.  As a field, it emerged out of the slavery/conquest/colonial era, and in many ways cannot be separated from the leagcies of racism, sexism, calssism and colonialism that shaped its beginnings.  Given this backdrop, what does anthropology for liberation look like? Is this even possible?  If so, what might a methodology for this model?  What questions would an anthropology for liberation ask, and what models would it uphold?  The purpose of this class is to explore these questions and others as we take a critical look at anthropologists' quests to shifting the the legacy of anthropology from the colonial; toward freedom and liberation.  Through critical readings, we will explore anthropology's relationship to human rights, violence, questions of race, gender and sexuality, imperialism and neoliberalism, and some of the ways that some anthropologists have chosen to use their field work to turn anthropology on its head rather than reinscribe its divisive past.

WGS 393 • Performnc/Race/Violence/Body

48242 • Spring 2014
Meets T 1100am-200pm SAC 5.124
(also listed as AFR 387D, ANT 391)

WGS 340 • Black Women/Struggle/Transnatl

47748 • Fall 2013
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm SAC 5.102
(also listed as AFR 372F, ANT 324L, LAS 324L)

This course surveys Black women's experiences livingwith and confrontingstate oppressionaround the world. From the United Statesto Brazil Black women experience similar patterns of political, social, and economic inequality. Transnationally, racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia,andclassism affect the quality of life of Black women, particularly within nation-states with legacies of slavery and colonialism. This course takesan historical, social, andtheoretical look at the roots of this inequality and how Black women have chosen to respond to it locally and globally. Howhave interlocking forms of oppression affect Black women's citizenship within the modern nation-state? How have Black women, in turn, sought to organize themselves inresponse to this oppression? Key themes include racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, classism, migration, and Black feminism.

 

Assignments

Class Attendance – 15%

Engaged participation in class discussion – 15%

Midterm – 25%

Final – 25%

Research Report Paper – 10%

Research Report Team Presentation – 10%

 

 

 Sample texts

Davis, A. Y. 1983. Women, race & class, 1st Vintage Books edition. New York: Vintage Books.

James, J. 1999. Shadowboxing : representations of black feminist politics, 1st edition. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Oparah, J. C. 2005. Global lockdown : race, gender, and the prison-industrial complex. New York: Routledge.

 

 

Curriculum Vitae


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