HISC Student Spotlight #1

October 22, 2019


What’s your name, current standing and research focus?

Matt Smith, First Year. I think and write about the conceptual history of alienation and its discursive function in social movements and cultural criticism. I’m particularly interested in traditions that understand alienation as a predicate for emancipation from various forms of domination, as well as in depictions of the psychological and emotional experience of alienation.


How did you hear about Histcon and what made you apply and decide to attend?

Histcon first came on my radar when I encountered Hayden White’s Metahistories as an undergraduate. For a long time I thought of myself as a historian, but as my academic interests developed I realized I needed a program that took a more integrative approach toward political theory, history, and philosophy. More than any other program in the United States, Histcon fit the bill.

Do you have any upcoming events or publications?

Not just yet but stay tuned.


What are you working on now?

I’m developing a highly syncretic syllabus on what might be considered “canonical” works on alienation. The syllabus will span various disciplines including critical theory, psychology, and sociology, with the goal of arriving at a more-or-less global sense of what this concept might mean. I am also homing in on the relationship between alienation and concepts of autonomy advanced by radical social movements in Germany and Italy during the latter half of the twentieth century.


When you’re not hard at work in the HISC program, how do you like to spend your time?

I act in theater and film whenever I get the chance. I love the sense of community among actors—it might be the opposite of alienation.  


Anything else you’d like us to know?

As an East Coast kid born and raised, I’m eager for (free) surfing lessons—any takers?