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Dr Macs Smith

Introduction

I grew up in Virginia just outside of Washington, DC. I studied French and English at the College of William and Mary and then did my Masters and PhD in French at Princeton University. At Princeton I was a member of l'Avant-Scène, a French-language acting troupe. My thesis, however, focused on Paris and I spent a year of my PhD at ENS-Ulm. As of 2018 I'm the Hamilton Junior Research Fellow in French at Queen's.

Research

The unifying theme of my research is my interest in the way mediation permeates our lives and the ways it often does so invisibly. In my doctoral thesis I took a media studies approach to French urbanism, asking how the city of Paris functions as a media system. I focused in particular on what constitutes noise within that system -- not just unwanted sounds, but also the various illicit practices (graffiti, parkour, protest, rioting) that interrupt the efficient transmission of messages, goods, and bodies through urban space. I showed how discourses around urban noise have historically (and increasingly) been dominated by biological terminology, in particular the language of parasitism, and I asked what this means for our broader conception of the city as a key locus of the 'body politic.'

My current research builds on that theme by examining the medical language that has become popular for describing people's relationship to media technology, e.g. the 'smartphone cleanse.' I'm asking what it actually means to feel connected. Does an immediate connection with someone require the absence of media, or can it take place across multiple layers of mediation? To answer these questions I'm focusing on contemporary French theatre, but I'm also looking at thinkers like Levinas, Derrida, and Baudrillard, and at current neuroscience and psychology research.

Publications

'What Dies in the Street: Camus’s La Peste and Infected Networks,' French Forum 41, no. 3 (2017): 192-207