Daniel Jordan Smith

Associate Professor of Anthropology
Chair of Anthropology


Daniel J. Smith joined the Department of Anthropology at Brown University in July 2001. He received an AB in Sociology from Harvard University in 1983, an MPH from Johns Hopkins University in 1989, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Emory University in 1999. Smith conducts research in Nigeria focusing on a range of issues, including social change, political culture, kinship, and health. He won the 2008 Margaret Mead Award for his book, A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria (Princeton University Press, 2007). Professor Smith's most recent book, AIDS Doesn't Show Its Face: Inequality, Morality, and Social Change in Nigeria (University of Chicago Press, 2014) analyzes popular responses to the AIDS epidemic as a prism to understand wider phenomena.

He has completed several research projects with grants awarded by NSF and NIH, with a major focus in the HIV epidemic in Nigeria. Smith was the recipient of the 2007-2009 William C. McGloughlin Award for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences. From 2006-2011 he was Associate Director of the Population Studies and Training Center. He is currently Chair of the Anthropology Department. 

Smith conducts research in medical anthropology, anthropological demography, and political anthropology in sub-Saharan Africa, with a specific focus on Nigeria. His research in medical and demographic anthropology includes work on HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and behavior, adolescent sexuality, marriage, kinship, and rural-urban migration. His work on political culture in Nigeria includes studies of patron-clientism, Pentecostal Christianity, vigilantism, and corruption.

Broadly, Smith's research focuses on understanding the intersection of social change and social reproduction, particularly as it unfolds in population processes and health-related behavior. Completed research projects have investigated the influence of migration on family organization and reproductive behavior as people live across rural-urban boundaries. Smith has also studied the effects of rural-urban migration on sexual behavior and HIV risk among adolescents and unmarried young adults. He recently completed the Nigeria component of an NIH-supported, five-country comparative ethnographic study entitled "Love, Marriage, and HIV." The research examined the changing expectations and pragmatics of modern marriage, documenting and analyzing the organization and opportunity structures of extramarital relationships, investigating how gender is configured in contemporary sexual and romantic relationships, and evaluating the effect of these patterns on the transmission of HIV.

More recently, Smith completed a study of the ways that Pentecostal Christianity in Nigeria has intersected with the AIDS epidemic, looking at the seemingly paradoxical role of these popular churches in both exacerbating stigma and offering important places of support for people living with HIV. Smith’s work also examines political culture in Nigeria, especially issues related to inequality and development. Much of this work focuses on understanding the intersection of social imagination, politics, and contemporary issues in Nigeria, including democracy, violence, vigilantism, and corruption.

Smith's first book, A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria, which won the 2008 Margaret Mead Award, examines ordinary Nigerians' participation in corruption, even as they are, paradoxically, its main victims and its loudest critics. His second book, a co-authored volume, The Secret: Love, Marriage, and HIV (Vanderbilt University Press, 2009), presents comparative findings from the five-country study described above. Professor Smith’s most recent book, AIDS Doesn’t Show Its Face: Inequality, Morality, and Social Change in Nigeria (University of Chicago Press, 2014) analyzes popular responses to the AIDS epidemic as a prism to understand wider phenomena. His current book project focuses on masculinity in Nigeria, exploring the intertwining dynamics of money and intimacy, as gender sits at the center of complex social transformations.


Anthropological demography, corruption, HIV/AIDS, Medical anthropology, Migration, Nigeria, Pentecostal Christianity, Political culture, Sub-Saharan Africa