I am a feminist political geographer interested in the relationship between territory, bodies, and the everyday. In my research, I seek to understand how politics and geopolitics are constituted or disrupted through intimate acts of love, friendship, and birth. I have worked on these questions in the Ladakh region of India’s Jammu and Kashmir State in relation to marriage and family planning, and am now engaged in a new project on marginalized Himalayan youth , with Dr. Mabel Gergan. I also pursue these issues as they emerge in the national (U.S.) and global context, through developing collaborations with Banu Gökariksel, Chris Neubert, Pavithra Vasudevan, and Mabel Gergan.

Pavithra Vasudevan, my current PhD student and I just edited a special issue on “Race, Biopolitics, and the Future,” now open access at Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. We are also working on questions of race and the Anthropocene as envisioned in scenes of apocalyptic film, with  my former PhD student, Mabel Gergan.

My other most recent publications include a co-authored piece on the political demography of the global “Baby Bust,” with Paul Robbins, a guest editorial on the fascist body politics of Donald Trump, now made open access by Political Geography, and a reflection on methodology, “Intimacy and angst in the field.” Banu Gökariksel, Nathan Swanson, and a special issue at Area: “Bodies, territory, and borders.”

I am in collaboration with Pat Parker, Jean Dennison, and Dorothy Holland in thinking through strategies for decolonizing how methodology is taught in the university, and parallel to this I am a founding member of the FLOCK feminist collective, and a member of the organizing team for the 2017 Feminist Geography conference at UNC.

Please email me at shsmith1@email.unc.edu if you would like PDF versions of any of the publications listed below, or visit me at ResearchGate or Academia.edu.

Curriculum Vitae

Intimate Geopolitics

Since 2004, my research has engaged with the politics of marriage and fertility in Ladakh’s Leh District. As residents of Jammu and Kashmir State, Ladakhis have experienced the politicization of religious identity over the course of the twentieth century as the colonial logics linking population and territory unfolded during and after partition.  Ladakhis struggle to make their political demands heard in the context of geopolitical conflict and territorial uncertainty. Since the 1980s, increasing tension between Leh’s Buddhist majority and its Shia and Sunni minorities has entangled decisions about marriage and babies in disciplinary political narratives. This research explores the territorial logic manifest in a pro-natal campaign and a ban on religious intermarriage, as well as the ways that people cope with such territorial logic. My research has included survey work and interviews, as well as oral history and photography projects with Ladakhi youth. The research has been funded by Fulbright-Hays, the Social Science Research Council, and the Society of Women Geographers.

To expand this work beyond the South Asian context, I have been developing a special section titled “Bodies, Territory, and Borders” for the journal Area, in collaboration with Banu Gökariksel, Nathan Swanson, and Agnes Chew.

I have published on this work in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Political Geography, Gender, Place & Culture, and others. Please see my publications page for details.

Growing up in a geopolitical world

YourValuableVoteHow do young people form their political subjectivities in relation to geopolitical conflict and local political struggles? I am developing a new research project studying how Himalayan youth understand their place in the world as they navigate the movement between their remote Himalayan homes and the major urban centers they travel to for higher education. Groundwork for this project involved a study with the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh in 2007, an oral history project with Ladakhi high school students in 2008, and a photography project in 2010 in collaboration with the Ladakh Arts and Media Organization (LAMO). Since 2011, I have been collaborating with LAMO and with my PhD student, Mabel Gergan on a long-term investigation of these questions involving interviews, surveys, and participatory photography.

Thus far I have published work from this research both individually and in collaboration with Mabel, in Transactions of the Institute of British GeographersEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space, and elsewhere. Please see publications for details.

Critical approaches to methodology

In relation to the work above I have been striving to develop careful and ethical approaches to qualitative research. This has involved a collaborative interdisciplinary pedagogical project with Jean Dennison (UNC Anthropology), and an article in Gender, Place & Culture.