Your host, Dr. Smith, circa 2014.

My name is Eric Drummond Smith.

I am an Appalachian - born and raised in Bluefield, West Virginia, I spent summers in Bland County Virginia. Since I graduated from high school I have lived all over the mountains - around six years in old Watauga (that corner of the mountains centered around the meeting point of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia) a couple years in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and around eight years in the orange city of Knoxville, Tennessee.  Call me a hillbilly if you want, but I prefer hillbilly epicurean.  


I have been lucky enough to have learned a lot of things from a lot of people.  Of course today I am an assistant professor of politics at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, but there are other schools I’d like to draw your attention to, if you wouldn’t mind, notably: 

Emory & Henry College: My baccalaureate institution - prepared me for a life of reading and writing till my eyes hurt and my fingers hurt, well, more. Triple majored in political science, art, and geography. 

The University of Virginia in Charlottesville: My masters institution, I read for East Asian studies, focusing on Chinese politics, history, philosophy, and art.  

The University of Tennessee in Knoxville: My doctoral institution, I read for political science, testing in the fields of international relations and comparative politics and specializing in the origins of conflict. 

I also owe debts to some other great schools, notably Beloit College, where I attended intensive language training for Mandarin Chinese, and Maryville College, where I was an adjunct professor for several years and learned the differences between teaching at a research institution and teaching at a liberal arts institution. 


When it comes to politics I am particularly interested in a few subjects.  I love taxonomy, the Aristotelian endeavor of cataloging institutions and structures that precedes the comparative process.  I also am intractably interested in regime change and the origins of war - that moment when a system shifts from being static and stable and enormously transformative forces of violence erupt and, in particular, the quiet decision to actually shift from the former to the latter.   And then there is political communication, or more accurately, propaganda, that point where the arts and politics are so deeply inter-meshed that they can hardly be distinguished from one another. Finally, I love the philosophy of politics, especially classical and early modern Western and premodern East Asian. 

I love to write but have far too little time to do so frequently - the travails of working at a tiny liberal arts college, I suppose.  My current projects, which are the focus of my efforts, include a collection of key American foreign policy first materials, a piece called "The Grammar of Totalitarianism," an attempt to generate a taxonomy of totalitarian politics both as they relate to other types of government and in terms of how they vary from one another.  I am also working on the first volume of a series on the various premodern, non-Western models of regime change - the first is on Chinese models of regime change (and possibly Japanese and Korean - though those might get their own volume - time will tell).  More long term I am sketching out a textbook on American foreign policy, one which focuses on the principal speeches and documents thereof with brief commentaries on each. 

I also try to do a good amount of community service when it comes to my politics - beyond classroom teaching (which is always my first passion) I often work with various newspapers and television stations in the region and I maintain a political education-focused blog, Ask a Political Scientist - which I don't get to work on as often as I'd like, but which is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done, and I try to visit local high schools and organizations and simply answer questions or give lectures on whatever subject they care to know about.  I suppose that summarizes my ethic as a political scientist - I see myself as a deeply political animal, but I try to remain aloof - the gadfly as opposed to the candidate. 


I describe myself as having two careers - I'm a political scientist, as I mentioned above, and I'm a fine artist (check out my artist's statement here).  If you think the statement is too long, well, my work is weird and ludicrous and funny and dark - pop surrealist neo-expressionism.  Give it a try, you might like it.