I am currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Brown University. I do research and teaching in the areas of gender, health, military, media, criminal justice, and inequality.
Broadly speaking, my research investigates how masculine behaviors and attitudes generate harmful health outcomes. More specifically, I investigate the toxic, yet powerful, association between masculinity and violence. I am interested in how men and women engage in, interpret, reconcile with, and heal from violence and the effect this has on health outcomes and gender identity. I am currently doing research on the readjustment of American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars
I currently research the informal coping mechanisms used by male and female veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This project investigates how the more than two million recently returned soldiers--most of whom choose not to use the VA health care system--personally manage their mental health independent of formal health institutions. The study is guided by my interest in the consequences of how warfare (and the military overall) demands invulnerability, violence, and stoicism, qualities deemed masculine, while healthful coping afterwards necessitates qualities that are largely the opposite (i.e.: help-seeking, expression, connectivity), and not coincidentally, perceived as feminine.
The research on veterans' mental health builds on my earlier ethnographic study of the meanings and motivations of young men who train and perform in community-level independent professional wrestling, where violence, pain, and injury are mainstays of the experience. The study--now a forthcoming 2014 book at Duke University Press--shows how young men establish identities through this perilous practice which is poorly rewarded and very physically destructive. The participants' elaborate combat choreography, which fakes hostility in order to excite spectators, casts new light on the quest for solidarity and community, the management of pain in everyday life, the intimacy of violence, and emotional labor. The study shows the attraction, ambivalence, and dangers of everyday masculine practices by analyzing tensions between homophobia and homoeroticism, strength and vulnerability, and pain and solidarity.
Both of these projects demonstrate how men and women (largely working-class) manage and reconcile with violence, injuries, gender identity, and wellbeing in a neoliberal American society--where low wages, insecure employment, and fragmented social support are all too common. The projects reveal how people cope and make sense of their health in light of their voluntary participation in an exhilarating, yet costly endeavor. I examine dynamics such as when stoicism approaches masochism, homophobia coexists with solidarity, and numbness is chosen over the expression of fear or vulnerability.
The veterans' research informs a variety of health issues like stigma, help-seeking, trauma recovery, and the medicalization of mental health, to name a few.
Smith, R. Tyson and Gala True. "Warring Identities: Identity Conflict and the Mental Distress of American Veterans of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." Society and Mental Health. 2014.
Fighting for Recognition: Masculinity, Identity and Acts of Violence in Professional Wrestling. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. July 2014.
Smith, R. Tyson. 2013. Aaron Belkin's Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001. Columbia University Press. Book Review in Res Militaris: European Journal of Military Studies. www.resmilitaris.net/ressources/10176/72/res_militaris_smith_book_review_of_aaron_belkin_bring_me_men.pdf
Smith, R. Tyson. 2013. "The Crime of the Crime Report." The Chestnut Hill Local. March 13th. http://chestnuthilllocal.com/blog/2013/03/14/the-crime-of-the-crime-report/
Ethel Brooks, Shannon Lundeen, and R. Tyson Smith. 2012. "Conversation about Cynthia Enloe's 'Nimo's War, Emma's War." International Feminist Journal of Politics. Vol. 14(2). pp. 290-305.
Smith, R. Tyson. 2012. "El dolor en la acción: los significados del dolor que experimentan los luchadores profesionales." In Javier Auyero and Rodrigo Hobert (editors), Acción e interpretación en la sociología cualitativa norteamericana. Quito-Buenos Aires: Flacso/UNLP.
Smith, R. Tyson. 2011. "Corbett's Cuts and the Implications for Race in Philadelphia Schools." The Color Line. Online publication of The Society Pages. Published June 5th, 2011. http://thesocietypages.org/colorline/2011/06/05/corbett%E2%80%99s-cuts-and-their-implications-for-race-in-philadelphia-schools/
Smith, R. Tyson. 2010. "Gap Growing between Military and Civilians." The Philadelphia Inquirer. October 19th. Editorial page.
Schwartz, Michael and R. Tyson Smith. 2010. "Beyond the Core: The Hot Topic Alternative to the Survey-Based Introduction to Sociology Course." The American Sociologist. Vol. 41(3): 249-276.
Smith, R. Tyson. 2009. "A Raw Export." Contexts: A Publication of the American Sociological Association. Spring, Vol. 8(2):65-67.
Smith, Tyson. 2008. "Advertising." 2nd Ed. In William A. Darity, Jr., (Ed.) International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA.
Smith, R. Tyson. 2008. "Pain in the Act: The Meanings of Pain among Professional Wrestlers." Qualitative Sociology. Vol. 31(2):129-148.
Smith, R. Tyson. 2008. "Passion Work: The Joint Production of Emotional Labor in Professional Wrestling." Social Psychology Quarterly. Vol. 71(2):157-176.
Smith, Tyson. 2007. "Advertising." In M. Flood, J.K. Gardiner, B. Pease, and K. Pringle (Eds.). International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities. London: Routledge.
Smith, Tyson. 2006. "Wrestling with Kayfabe." Contexts: A Publication of the American Sociological Association. Spring. 5(2):54-55.
Smith, Tyson. 2005. "Pumping Irony: The Construction of Masculinity in a Post-feminist Advertising Campaign." Advertising and Society Review. 6(3).
Smith, Tyson and Michael Kimmel. 2005. "The Hidden Discourse of Masculinity in Gender Discrimination Law." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Spring. 30(3):1827-1849.
Reprinted in: Global Perspectives on Gender and Work: Readings and Interpretations. 2010. Edited by Jacqueline Goodman. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Smith, Tyson. 2004. "Roundtable on Advertising and the New Masculinities." Advertising and Society Review. 5(4).
Smith, Tyson. 2004. "Professional Wrestling." In Michael Kimmel and Amy Aronson (eds.) Men and Masculinities: A Social, Cultural, and Historical Encyclopedia. Oxford: ABC Clio Publications.
Kimmel, Michael and Tyson Smith. 2004. "The 'Reasonable Woman' and Unreasonable Men: Gendered Discourses in Sexual Harassment Litigation." In James Gruber and Phoebe Morgan (eds.) In the Company of Men: Male Dominance and Sexual Harassment. Boston: Northeastern University Press. pp.143-166.