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R. Tyson Smith, Ph.D.

 




Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
Haverford College

 


Broadly speaking, my research investigates how masculine attitudes and behaviors encourage harmful health outcomes. My work applies a social psychology lens to understand the strong association between masculinity and violence. I am interested in how gender identity affects the way that men and women engage in, interpret, reconcile with, and heal from violence.

As an NIMH Postdoctoral Fellow at the Rutgers University Institute for Health, I began a mixed-method study of 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—cope with adjustment independent of formal health institutions. The project is guided by my interest in the consequences of how the violence of warfare (and the military more generally) demands a hardened disposition of self-reliance and stoicism, while healthful coping afterwards necessitates qualities that are largely the opposite (i.e.: help-seeking, expression, connectivity). 

My veterans research builds on earlier ethnographic research I conducted on the experience, meanings, and motivations of men who train and perform in community-level independent pro wrestling, where most wrestlers receive little-to-no pay. Although professional wrestling is one of the most popular “sporting events” in the United States, people are seldom aware of the constellation of independent promotions that operate beyond the purview of the highly profitable, televised productions. In my book, Fighting for Recognition (Duke University Press) I investigate how men are motivated and affected by their acts of violence. Indy participants’ devotion to their elaborate combat choreography, which fakes hostility in order to excite a crowd of spectators, casts light on the management of pain in everyday life, the intimacy of violence, emotional labor, and the quest for solidarity and community. The analysis provides new interpretations of the attraction, ambivalence and pitfalls of “doing” masculinity.

Despite being very different activities—one very real and one notoriously fake—wrestling and warfare show how men and women (largely young and working-class) manage violence, emotions, risk, and gender identity in a neoliberalist era—where low wages, insecure employment, and fragmented social support are all too common. My primary interest is how people cope and make sense of their physical or mental health in light of their voluntary participation in an exhilarating, yet costly endeavor. The projects examine dynamics that shape participants’ gender identities and health. 

Selected Publications

-Fighting for Recognition: Identity, Masculinity and the Act of Violence in Professional Wrestling. 2014. Duke University Press.

-"Warring Identities: Identity Conflict and the Mental Distress of American Veterans of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." Society and Mental Health. (With Gala True.) 2014. (see below)

-“Conversation about Cynthia Enloe’s, ‘Nimo’s War, Emma’s War.” International Feminist Journal of Politics. Vol. 14(2). pp. 290-305. 2012. (With Shannon Lundeen and Ethel Brooks). .pdf

-"Gap Growing between Military and Civilians." Op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer about aspects of the contemporary veteran experience. 10/19/2010.

-“Teaching Beyond the Core: The Hot Topic Alternative to the Survey-Based Introduction to Sociology Course.” The American Sociologist. 2010. (With Michael Schwartz). .pdf

-"A Raw Export." Contexts. Spring 2009. .pdf 

-“Passion Work: The Joint Production of Emotional Labor in Professional Wrestling.” Social Psychology Quarterly. June 2008. .pdf

-“Pain in the Act: The Meanings of Pain among Professional Wrestlers.” Qualitative Sociology. Vol. 31 (2). 2008.

-“Wrestling with Kayfabe.” Contexts. Spring. 5 (2). 2006.

-“The Hidden Discourse of Masculinity in Gender Discrimination Law.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Spring. 30 (3):1827-1849. 2005. (With Michael Kimmel). .pdf

-“Pumping Irony: The Construction of Masculinity in a Post-feminist Advertising Campaign.” Advertising and Society Review. 6 (3). 2005.

-“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. 2004. (With Michael Kimmel)

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