Laura Elizabeth Smith

Laura Elizabeth Smith

Ph.D. in Culture and Performance


Laura Smith (she/her) is a Ph.D. student in the World Arts and Cultures/Dance department. Her research focuses on the dependence of 19th century emerging medical specialties on slavery and the erasures that occurred as that medical knowledge traveled to elite European medical centers.Her dissertation examines the role of performance in the 19th century professionalization of gynecology from two perspectives: First, what was the role of performance in legitimizing medical innovations in the 19th century; and second, how can contemporary performance materialize the obfuscated histories behind the production of medical knowledge? Furthermore, how can the worldbuilding capacities of performance help imagine terms of medical care outside of the logic of liberalism?

She is a 2021 recipient of the Dance Studies Association’s Selma Jeanne Cohen Award, and her research has been supported by UCLA's Graduate Research Mentorship Program, UCLA's Summer Mentored Research Fellowship, the British Society for the History of Science, Society for Dance Research, Nordic Forum for Dance Research, and UCLA's Center for the Study of Women. She is co-chair of the Performance Studies area at the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association and frequently presents her research at international conferences.

Her teaching philosophy focuses on breaking down barriers in higher education for neurodivergent and first-generation college students. She is a Grad2Grad Mentor for incoming UCLA graduate students.


19th Century Paris and London; Black Feminist Theory; History of Medicine; Dance Studies; Gender Studies"


Certificate in Gender Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

MA, Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University

BA, Gallatin School of Individualized Studies, New York University