I am a PhD candidate and instructor in the Department of Geography at the University of Kentucky. Before moving to Lexington I lived in Brooklyn and attended Hunter College of the City University of New York. In NYC I was an activist on several fronts, organizing mass demonstrations and creative actions that were a part of the anti-globalization, anti-war, and immigrant rights movements. While studying at Hunter I was an intern at the Center for Migration Studies and the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. I also worked as a research assistant in the GIS lab at Baruch College and for the project Mapping the Solidarity Economy.


MA Geography, Hunter College of the City University of New York 2015

Certificate in Geographic Information Science, Hunter College of the City University of New York 2015

BA Political Science, Hunter College of the City University of New York 2006


I am a feminist economic and political geographer. The motivation that spurs my research projects, informs my pedagogy, and shapes my methods is rooted in my history as an activist. I am inspired by how people dream about putting our lives in common, how we face challenges together, find openings in unlikely places, and commandeer resources in hopes of transforming the capitalist and patriarchal framework that shapes how we are expected to think and live.

My dissertation research is about the gendered nature of remittances. I examine the effects of remittance management on family networks and women’s political participation in a Oaxaca, Mexico. My project will 1) illustrate the precise ways that remittances are being managed; 2) investigate how women participate in remittance management at the household and community level; and 3) analyze how the process of negotiating the use of remittances is transforming the responsibilities, labor, and political involvement of women. I hope to contribute new insights on the relationship between gender, labor, and citizenship as well as new findings on how global migration and remittances flows are mobilized by family networks and local communities. This research is funded by a combination of awards including a National Science Foundation Geography and Spatial Sciences Program Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Award (#1833226) and a Society of Woman Geographers Evelyn L. Pruitt National Fellowship for Dissertation Research.

This project builds on my geography MA thesis, which analyzed how Mexican hometown associations in New York City engage in solidarity through ethical economic practices of collective remittance sending and community service provision in New York City. Drawing on feminist literature on diverse economies, I argued that the solidarity work of hometown associations disrupts the dominant remittance as development discourse and is an attempt by migrants to distance themselves from neoliberal remittance policies.

In addition to my dissertation, I currently have two other projects that focus on student life in the neoliberal university. The first is with Rory Barron (undergraduate student, University of Kentucky) and is on campus activism at the University of Kentucky. Stemming from our work organizing a campus-wide Teach-In against Trump’s inauguration in January of 2017, we are analyzing the oral histories of marginalized student activists. The second is with Jess Linz (PhD student, University of Kentucky) and is called “A feminist coven in the university” (see text, video). The feminist coven is both a theoretical space and a real network of rebels. As a site of competition, scarcity, imperialism, racism, and patriarchy, the university grinds especially hard on women, people of color, black, indigenous, queer, disabled, and otherwise marginalized scholars. Out of a desire not just to get by or get ahead in this hostile space, we write about a feminist praxis that subverts the academy.

Araby Smyth

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