Dr. Timothy J. Smith
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Ph.D. 2004 University at Albany, SUNY
M.A. 2000 University at Albany, SUNY
B.S. 1998 Tulane University
B.A. 1998 Tulane University
Office Address: 349J Anne Belk Hall
DOWNLOAD CV (.PDF) 95 KB
Book Reviews Editor (Ethnography and Linguistics)
Editorial Board Member
Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Appalachian Field School in Ecuador
Humanities Council, Appalachian State University
Department of Anthropolology, Appalachian State University
Areas of Research/Interest
Latin American development, electoral politics and democracy, ethnicity and race, environmental subjectivities, indigenous languages (Kaqchikel Mayan and Napo Kichwa), immigration; Latin America (Guatemala and Ecuador) and Europe (France and Spain)
Political Anthropology, Anthropology of Democracy, Epistemology & Praxis, Hegemony & Power, Politics of Ethnicity, Latin America through Ethnography, Senior Seminar, Understanding Culture, Language and Culture, Mesoamerican Cultures, Ethnographic Writing and Video, Ethnographic Field School (Ecuador)
In the News
Named to the College of Arts & Sciences Academy of Outstanding Teachers (Department of Anthropology)
Named to the Academic Leadership Development Program (Appalachian State University)
Highlighted for Work with Indigenous Leaders in Guatemala (Appalachian Magazine and News Feature)
Untangling the Myths and Misconceptions Behind the Maya "Apolcalypse" (Princeton University Homepage Feature)
Student Trip to Guatemala- December 2012 (Princeton University PLAS Blog)
Students Visit Guatemala (Princeton University PLAS Newsletter)
Named Visiting Fellow at Princeton University (Princeton University PLAS Newsletter)
Awarded Princeton University Fellowship (Appalachian State University News Feature)
Outstanding Junior Faculty of the Year Award for College of Arts & Sciences (Department of Anthropology)
Publishes Mayan Language Book for Classrooms in Guatemala (Appalachian State University News Feature)
Invited to Speak in Colombia (Appalachian Scene)
Group Studies Indigenous Activism in Upper Amazon of Ecuador (Appalachian Magazine)
Timothy J. Smith did his undergraduate work at Tulane University, where he received a BA in Latin American Studies (focus on Mesoamerican Linguistics) and a BS in Anthropology. He did his graduate work in Anthropology (MA and PhD) at the University at Albany, SUNY, and wrote his dissertation while in residence as a visiting fellow at Harvard University and Columbia University. His dissertation was the first complete study of the highland Guatemalan town of Sololá. Given his training in both Latin American Studies and a four-field approach to anthropology, the themes of his research are varied and include a critical examination of community participation, linguistic revival and change, violence and conflict, development, human rights, citizenship and the state, environmental conservation, and grassroots indigenous politics in Latin America (Guatemala and Ecuador). His research and writings have been supported by Princeton University (Program in Latin American Studies, Department of Anthropology, Office of Population Research), Harvard University (Department of Anthropology), Columbia University (Department of Anthropology), Duke University (Department of Cultural Anthropology), Fulbright (IIE), Hewlett Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of State, National Science Foundation, Institute for Mesoamerican Studies (University at Albany, SUNY), Center for Advanced Study (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies (Tulane University), and the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean (University of South Florida). His teaching deals with the cultural politics of representation and indigenous movements, cultural and political constructions of knowledge, language and culture, contemporary Latin America, identity formation, and the practical application of theory/knowledge.
Main Research Areas
Currently, Smith is working on a new monograph with the working title of "From Indifference to Passion: Elections, Violence, and the Dignity of Truth in Guatemala," which entails an ethnographic study of indigenous voter interests, desires, and electoral participation since the end of the genocidal counterinsurgency war in 1996. The study, a contribution to the anthropology of democracy, explores how participation in electoral politics has provided an organic outlet for indigenous mobilization and declarations, in addition to shaping local understandings of indigenous citizenship and political subjectivities. Given the rise in neoliberal insecurities (ransomed kidnappings, narco-trafficking, armed robberies, femicide, gang violence, etc.) and the subsequent return of the military via iron-fist crime policies, the book also deals with how voting may signal truth-telling acts to complicate particular philosophical explanations for abstention which tend to focus upon disaffection, alienation, and political poverty. With the majority of research conducted in Kaqchikel Mayan (in which he is fluent), his work draws from over 400 interviews with regional indigenous leaders and community members, and high-ranking state officials.
Since 2007, he has made eight summer field trips to Ecuador to collect information for a comparative study with Guatemalan indigenous leadership through the topics of environmental citizenship and indigenous constructions of nature with regards to identity and lived experiences. He has conducted research on the relationships between indigenous communities, government institutions, and environmental issues in the Amazon. By looking at a specific example of community organizing around eco-tourism development projects in the wake of oil extraction, deforestation, and the associated risks (alongside the growth of eco-tourism lodges in Napo Province), and the pro-active stance which Quichua community leaders are starting to take, he hopes to illuminate the creation of new political identities and meanings ascribed to co/overt indigenous organizing through moves toward environmental protection and management. Recently, this research as led to a new project on gender and performance by working with an indigenous women's organzation focused upon community tourism.
Secondary Research Areas
Since 2007, he has also travelled to France numerous times having initiated a study of Mexican immigrants and ex-patriots using a framework of an “ontology of belonging” to explore the ways in which immigrants construct their understandings of national identity and community from abroad, in addition to the multiple pathways through which they maintain ties to their natal communities. His interest in the project has been driven by a desire to move beyond the debate of area studies vs. globalization and build off of the rich scholarship on Latin American immigrants throughout the western hemisphere by looking to Europe. In particular, he has been working with a small community in southern France and exploring self-identification, experience, and coping mechanisms of Mexican nationals as they negotiate ever-changing (and increasingly draconian) French immigration policies and the growing instability of employment for foreign nationals following the global economic crisis of recent years.
Since 2013, he (along with fellow collaborator, Dr. Cameron Lippard of the Department of Sociology) has been involved with a new project looking at economic hardships and coping mechanisms, and how both inform emergent identities among Mexican immigrant farmworkers in Christmas tree farms in five counties in western North Carolina. With the help of four research assistants, their goal is to conduct an ethnographic study of economic indicators, coping and mobility strategies, as well to collect descriptive narratives of the lived experiences of Mexican immigrants who find employment in one of the most economically depressed regions of the United States.
He has taken both graduate and undergraduate students abroad ten times to Guatemala (2006, 2012) and Ecuador (2007, 2009-2015) through the University of South Florida, Appalachian State University, and Princeton University. In 2006, he brought ten students (graduate and undergraduate) to Guatemala to study indigenous identity before the 16th century (pre-Hispanic political structures, urban design, and architecture), during the Colonial Period (religious conversion/subversion, historical writings and documents, and community development), and in the present-day (indigenous government, electoral politics, NGOs, and tourism). In 2007, he was part of the summer teaching faculty for Arizona State University’s Andes and Amazon Field School, offering an introductory course on Quichua, for which he also brought four graduate students and one undergraduate to Ecuador. These students received training in ethnographic field methods (research design, interviewing techniques, and community participation) and linguistic field methods (focusing on Ecuadorian Quichua). In December 2012, he took his Princeton University seminar (focused on indigenous representation and knowledge construction) to Guatemala in order to meet with indigeous leaders and learn about local reflections on the "end of the world" and "dawn of a new age" narratives that became the darlings of U.S. media and Hollywood. From 2009-2015, he has directed a study-abroad program in Ecuador with students for which they focus specifically on indigenous identity and activism as shaped around oil extraction near the shores of the Napo River. In addition, the project seeks to understand a local development models which, initiated by four Quichua-speaking communities, privileges eco-tourism and emphasizes conservation of the Amazonian watershed and the outflow of knowledge about indigenous culture. He returned in the summer of 2015 with a new group to work with a women's cooperative that promotes community tourism in order sustain programs on gender inequality, health, and education [Learn more]
He has lived in New Orleans, Phoenix, Cottonwood, Albany, Guatemala, Boston, New York, Champaign, Tampa, Princeton, and Boone. On the global front, he has spent time in Switzerland, Guatemala, England, Italy, Greece, France, Honduras, Mexico, Ireland, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, and Spain (in addition to cost-effective 8-hour layovers in the Toronto and Copenhagen airports). Before coming to Appalachian State University in the Fall of 2008, he was Visiting Assistant Professor of Humanities and American Studies at the University of South Florida (2006-2008), where he was also the Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean (2005-2006) as well as the Graduate Studies Advisor and also taught classes for the Department of Anthropology. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he was the Associate Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (2004-2005) as well as the Graduate Studies Advisor and also taught for the Department of Anthropology. In 2012, he taught a seminar at Princeton University as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Visiting Research Scholar for the Program in Latin American Studies, and held a guest appointment with the Office of Population Research.
(2015) Review (invited) of Adiós Niño: The Gangs of Guatemala City and the Politics of Death, by Deborah T. Levenson. Journal of Anthropological Research (forthcoming)
(2015) "An Anthropological Reflection on Guatemala 1954 (Una reflexión antropológica sobre Guatemala 1954)." El Periódico de Guatemala (forthcoming)
(2015) "Elections and Memory: Indigenous Votes in Guatemala after the Violence (Elecciones y la memoria: votos indígenas en Guatemala después de la violencia)". In: Diálogo de saberes: una mirada desde los pueblos indígenas y la academia, Gloria Amparo Rodríguez (ed.). Bogotá, Colombia: Universidad del Rosario Editorial (forthcoming)
(2014) "Crude Desires and 'Green' Initiatives: Indigenous Development and Oil Extraction in Amazonian Ecuador." In The Ecotourism-Extraction Nexus: Political Economies and Rural Realities of (un)Comfortable Bedfellows, Bram Büscher and Veronica Davidov (eds.), pp. 149-170. New York and London: Routledge.
(2015) Runuk’ulun ri Q’atb’äl Tzij chi Tz’olöj Ya’/Autoridad y Gobierno Kaqchikel de Sololá (with the Municipalidad Indígena de Sololá). Guatemala: Editorial Junajpu' (forthcoming)
(2013) "Matthew the Canadian Journalist: Engagement and Representation in Highland Guatemala." In Anthropology and the Politics of Representation, Gabriela Vargas-Cetina (ed.), pp. 119-139. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
(2011) Review (invited) of City of God: Christian Citizenship in Postwar Guatemala, by Kevin Lewis O'Neill. American Anthropologist 113(4):689-690.
(2011) After the Coup: An Ethnographic Reframing of Guatemala 1954 (edited with Abigail E. Adams). Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
(2011) "Reflecting upon the Historical Impact of the Coup." In After the Coup: An Ethnographic Reframing of Guatemala 1954, Timothy J. Smith and Abigail E. Adams (eds.), pp.1-16. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
(2010) "Confronting Violence in Postwar Guatemala." Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 15(1):1-15. (with Thomas A. Offit) *Most downloaded article of 2010
(2009) Mayas in Postwar Guatemala: Harvest of Violence Revisited (edited with Walter E. Little). Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
(2009) "Democracy is Dissent: Political Confrontations and Indigenous Mobilization in Sololá." In Mayas in Postwar Guatemala: Harvest of Violence Revisited, Walter E. Little and Timothy J. Smith (eds.), pp. 16-29. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
(2006) "Views from the 'South': Intellectual Hegemony and Postmodernism in Latin America." Reviews in Anthropology 35(1):61-78.
(2002) "Skipping Years and Scribal Errors: Kaqchikel Maya Timekeeping in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries." Ancient Mesoamerica 13(1):65-76.
(2002) Review (invited) of Place of the Lord’s Daughter: Rab’inal, its History, its Dance-Drama, by Ruud van Akkeren. Latin American Antiquity 13(1):124-125.
(2002) "Form and Function in Kaqchikel Word Order." In Proceedings of the 37th meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, Mary Andronis, Christopher Ball, Heidi Elston, and Sylvain Neuval (eds.). Volume 2, pp. 1-16 (with G. Aaron Broadwell).
(2001) "Iximche’: The Kaqchikel Warrior State." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures: The Civilizations of México and Central America, Davíd Carrasco (ed.). Volume 2, pp. 60-61. New York: Oxford University Press (with John W. Fox).
(2001) "Resurgence of the Indigenous Municipal Government of Sololá (Runuk’ulem ri Q’atb’äl Tzij pa Tz’oloj Ya’)." Kaqchi’ Wuj 15:9. Guatemala.