Brian C. Smithson is a Ph.D. candidate in Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. His research focuses on the efforts of Bénin's Yorùbá-speaking media creators to build up a local film industry by drawing upon various financial, historical, and symbolic resources. He is particularly interested in the ways these Yorùbá producers harness local religious histories, symbols, and practices to establish the look and feel of their films as being both distinctively Yorùbá and distinctively Beninese, a positioning that allows them to seek financial and material support from both the government of Bénin and the more robust "Nollywood" film industry of neighboring Nigeria.
Brian earned his master's degree in African Studies from UCLA in 2011, where he focused on the religious and political visual cultures of Cameroon. While at UCLA, he served as a museum educator at the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles. He has also worked as a graphic designer and studio artist in his home state of Louisiana.