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Edmund T. Gordon, Chair 2109 San Jacinto Blvd , Mailcode E3400, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4362

Christen Smith

Ph.D., 2007, Cultural and Social Anthropology, Stanford University

Assistant Professor of Anthropology and of African and African Diaspora Studies
Christen Smith

Contact

Biography

Professor Smith received her A.B. from Princeton University (1999) and her Ph.D. from Stanford University (2007). Her primary areas of interest are performance, race, gender, violence and the black body in the Americas with a particular emphasis on transnational black liberation struggles and racial formation. Methodologically she takes an activist research approach to ethnography and has been collaborating with black organizers in Brazil since 2001. Her current book manuscript explores the black body in pain as an ironic transfer point for defining Brazil’s Afro-paradise. She has published essays on the performativity of racial formation in Brazil, police violence and the politics of geography in Salvador, and the transnational collective black female body. She continues to work collaboratively with activists on the politics of race and state violence in Brazil and is beginning a new project on violence and the transnational black female body.

Additional affiliations: Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, Warfield Center for African and African-American Studies, Center for Women and Gender Studies,

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

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)

AFR 372F • Black Women/Transnatl State

29750 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm GEA 127
(also listed as ANT 324L, LAS 324L, WGS 340 )
show description

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.

AFR 387D • Performnc/Race/Violence/Body

29880 • Spring 2015
Meets TH 900am-1200pm CBA 4.342
(also listed as ANT 391, WGS 393 )
show 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 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.

 

 

AFR 374E • Polit Of Race/Violnc Brazil

30594 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 930am-1100am SAC 4.174
(also listed as ANT 324L, LAS 324L )
show description

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 course 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, genocide.

AFR 381 • Race, Violence, And Brazil

30646 • Fall 2014
Meets T 100pm-400pm SAC 4.120
(also listed as ANT 391, LAS 391 )
show description

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 Brazil’s major cities today

AFR 372C • Anthropology For Liberation

30636 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 930am-1100am UTC 1.116
(also listed as ANT 324L, WGS 340 )
show description

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.

AFR 387D • Performnc/Race/Violence/Body

30882 • Spring 2014
Meets T 1100am-200pm SAC 5.124
(also listed as ANT 391, WGS 393 )
show description

AFR 372F • Black Women/Struggle/Transnatl

30400 • Fall 2013
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm SAC 5.102
(also listed as ANT 324L, LAS 324L, WGS 340 )
show description

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.

 

 

AFR 374E • Polit Of Race/Violnc Brazil

30480 • Fall 2013
Meets MWF 1000am-1100am SAC 4.118
(also listed as ANT 324L, LAS 324L )
show description

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 Brazil’s 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 course 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.

Core Texts

~ Nancy ScheperHughes, Death Without Weeping (selected Chapters)

~Theresa Caldeira, City ot VVaiIs (selected chapters)

~ Donna Goldstein, Laughter out of Piace (selected chapters) ~Robin Sheriff, Dreaming Equality (selected Chapters)

~Caldweli, Kia, Negras in Brazil: Reenvisioning Black Women, Citizenship, And the Politics of identity (selected chapters) ~De Jesus, Carolina Marie et al., The Unedited Diaries oi Caroline Maria de Jesus (seiected Chapters)

Supplemental Texts

~Michael Hanonard ed., Racial Politics in Contemporary Brazil (selected Chapters)

~Gonzalez, Leila` “The Unified Black Movement: A New State in Black Political Mobilization” in Race, Class and Power in Brazil, ed. Pierre-Michel Fontaine

~Policing Rio de Janeiro: Repression and Resistance in a lQtn-oentury City. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. (selected chapters)

~Chevigny, Paul Edge of the Knife: Police Violence in the Americas (selected chapters)

~Michael Mitchell and Charles VVood, “lronies ot Citizenship: Skin Color, Police Brutality, and the Challenge to Democracy in Brazil.” Social Forces

~Arendt, Hannah “Reflections on Violence"

Booth, Wayne C, et al. The Craft of Research (guide to writing research papers selected Chapters).

AFR F374E • Polit Of Race/Violnc Brazil

81615 • Summer 2013
Meets MTWTHF 1000am-1130am SAC 5.118
(also listed as ANT F324L, LAS F324L )
show description

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 Brazil’s 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 course 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.

AFR 374E • Polit Of Race/Violnc Brazil

30378 • Fall 2012
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm SAC 4.118
(also listed as ANT 324L, LAS 324L )
show description

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 Brazil’s 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 course 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, genocide.

AFR 387D • Performnc/Race/Violence/Body

30446 • Fall 2012
Meets TH 300pm-600pm SAC 4.116
(also listed as ANT 391, LAS 391 )
show description

AFR 301 • African American Culture

30365 • Spring 2012
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm UTC 4.134
(also listed as AMS 315, ANT 310L )
show description

This course is an exploration of African American culture that provides students with analytical tools to critically examine and consciously participate in the ongoing construction of African American culture.  Particular attention is given to key terms such as race, culture, Blackness, hegemony, aesthetics, and politics.  Emphasis is placed on Black agency as demonstrated through the social, political, and representational choices made by African Americans.

AFR 301 • African American Culture

34905 • Spring 2009
Meets TTH 1100-1230pm UTC 4.134
(also listed as AMS 315, ANT 310L )
show description

This course is an exploration of African American culture that provides students with analytical tools to critically examine and consciously participate in the ongoing construction of African American culture.  Particular attention is given to key terms such as race, culture, Blackness, hegemony, aesthetics, and politics.  Emphasis is placed on Black agency as demonstrated through the social, political, and representational choices made by African Americans.

Publications

Books
Afro-Paradise: The Black Body, Violence and Performance in Brazil (forthcoming)
 
Journal Articles (*indicates peer reviewed)

*2014 “Putting Prostitutes in Their Place: Black Women, Social Violence and the Brazilian Case of Sirlei Carvalho”, Latin American Perspectives, Advanced online publication 2013 

download

*2013 “Strange Fruit: Necropolitics and the Transnational Resonance of Torture and Death”, Souls 15(3)

download

*2008   “Scenarios of Racial Contact: Police Violence and the Politics of Performance and Racial Formation in Brazil,” E-Misférica (5.2) http://www.hemisphericinstitute.org/hemi/es/e-misferica-52/smith

download

Book Chapters

In press “Between Soapboxes and Shadows: Activism, Theory and the Politics of Life and  Death in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil”, Bridging Scholarship and Activism edited by Bernd Reiter and Ulrich Oslender, Michigan State University Press

2009   “Strategies of Confinement: Environmental Racism, Police Terror and the Built Environment in Brazil.” in Environmental Justice in the New Millennium: Global Perspectives on Race, Ethnicity and Human Rights, Filomina Steady, ed. Pp. 93-114. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan

 


Op-Eds

"Misplaced ID teaches voting-rights lesson in Texas", The Chicago Reporter, November 10, 2014

"Issues of race, gender and class helped Rousseff win another term in Brazil", Global Post, October 13, 2014

"For Claudia Silva Ferreira: Death and the Collective Black Female Body", The Feminist Wire, May 5, 2014

"Para Claudia Silva Ferreira: Morte e o Corpo Coletivo da Mulher Negra", Reaja ou sera Mort@! Blogspot, June 25, 2014

"An Open Love Note to My Son: On Mourning, Love, and Black Motherhood", The Feminist Wire, July 14 2013

"Uma carta de amor aberto para meu filho: Sobre luto, amor e maternidade negra", Geledes, July 23, 2013

 

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