Micaela Smith

Faculty Advisor: Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Contact Information

E-mail: micaela.smith@northwestern.edu

Biographical Sketch

Micaela Alicia Smith received her B.A. with Honors in Ethnic Studies from UC San Diego in 2003. As a 2010-2011 Mellon Dissertation Fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Smith finished her dissertation and participated in the 18-month Sawyer Seminar Series (SSS) reading group “Property, Race, and Poverty: Paradoxes of the Law and the Possibility of Justice in Contemporary South Africa.” In addition, Smith made significant contributions to the 2010 Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism (JWTC) Workshop “Techniques of Capital: Property, Self-Creation and Politics in Precarious Times” as well as the 2011 JWTC Workshop, “Ordinary States|States of Ordinariness.”


  • B.A. American Studies and Ethnicity, University of California, San Diego, 2003
  • M.A. American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California, 2006

Postdoctoral Training

  • Mellon Sawyer Seminar Series Dissertation Fellow , University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa) , 03/2010-08/2011  

Employment History

  • Lecturer, Department of American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California, 2012


Summary Statement of Research Interests

  • “Conditions of Belonging: Life, Historical Preservation and Tourism Development in the Making of Pelourinho-Maciel, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, 1965-1985” Dr. Micaela Smith's work engages Afro-Brazil during the last years of the dictatorship (1965-1985) and focuses on the residents and their responses to processes of gentrification and forced removals that transformed their thriving but poor neighborhood, Pelourinho-Maciel (Salvador da Bahia), into one of the most touristed landscapes in Brazil as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Given the military regime (1964-1985) strictly enforced economic profit over welfare, what remains unique about their support for UNESCO recommendations is the degree to which local urban planners and social scientists were able to collaborate with and improve the welfare of the original residents. Examining the residents, and how they were described and discussed in the debates surrounding their status as valid residents, this study brings to the fore issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality in the history of Pelourinho-Maciel’s urban renewal and state development strategies. Far from a neat singular logic of development, local city, state, and international actors, relied on multiple narratives, sometimes overlapping and sometimes contradictory. Conditions of Belonging examines the potentialities within dependency development frameworks, showing how larger shifts operated within the lives and homes of Pelourinho-Maciel residents and how their waged struggles to remain, however small, as also participating in this reframing of development.



  • Department of American Studies & Ethnicity
  • University of Southern California
  • 3620 South Vermont Avenue
  • Kaprielian Hall 462
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-2534