Brian C. Smithson

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Head-and-shoulders image of Brian C. Smithson wearing a tan blazer over an orange sweater and grey, button-down shirt. He is a white man with short brown hair, brown glasses, and a brown beard.


Brian C. Smithson is a cultural anthropologist who studies the audiovisual cultures and religions of West Africa. He is completing a book titled Aesthetics of Praise: Making Movies Religious in Bénin—a story about cash-strapped movie producers, Christian–Muslim animosities, and professional rivalries in Yorùbá-speaking Bénin. The book shows how moviemakers overcome these hurdles by championing Yorùbá indigenous religion, its ethical principles, and its moral demands. In the process, they emphasize Yorùbá indigenous religion as an essential resource to shape political possibilities across religions, borders, and oceans in the face of global trends that lead to religious division and economic insecurity in Africa. Dr. Smithson's work draws from his experience as an apprentice video filmmaker in Bénin, and his co-production of a full-length, Yorùbá-language movie under the guidance of several Yorùbá filmmakers. He earned a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology at Duke University and a master's degree in African Studies at UCLA. He has taught at Duke, Bowdoin College, and the University of Virginia.