David A. Smilde Professor Department of Sociology Tulane University

David A. Smilde

Charles A. and Leo M. Favrot Professor of Human Relations & Department Chair
212 Newcomb Hall


Ph.D. University of Chicago


Current Research Projects

Over the past several years my attention has been focused on various aspects of the crisis in Venezuela. This past year I published The Paradox of Violence in Venezuela: Revolution, Crime and Policing (Pittsburgh 2022). In the introduction, my coeditors Verónica Zubillaga, Rebecca Hanson and I provide a new explanation for why violence surged during Chavismo, despite a decline in poverty and inequality.

As we wrote this book, violence changed in Venezuela and the police themselves became heavily involved—this latter leading the Maduro government to be investigated by the International Criminal Court. We have followed this book up with a project on transitional justice and peace construction. A conference at Notre Dame in 2021 and in Caracas in 2022 led to a Spanish-language short book called Búsqueda de Justicia en Venezuela: contexto actual, perspectivas y voces de las víctimas, forthcoming with Amnesty International in Venezuela.

This project also draws on my interest in peacemaking and negotiations in the Venezuela conflict. In 2020 I published with Geoff Ramsey “International Peacemaking in Venezuela’s Intractable Conflict 2014-2019” in the European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. In 2021 I published “From Populist to Socialist to Authoritarian Chavismo—Obstacles and Opportunities for Democratic Change” as part of my activity with the Venezuela Working Group of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. I also currently have a working paper with Hugo Pérez Hernáiz comparing the Venezuelan and Colombian Catholic Churches’ roles in peacemaking in their respective countries. In June 2024 I will be organizing with collaborators a mini-conference in Bogotá comparing the construction of peace in Venezuela and Colombia.

Another strand of my work looks at the Venezuela’s political process and international relations. However, rather than an exclusive focus on relationships between governments, as is typical of the IR literature, I work from the perspective of global historical sociology which also looks at transnational links between subnational social actors—such as NGOs, social movements and citizen networks—and how they impact international relations. In March 2022 I published “U.S.-Venezuela Oil Deal Must Not Forget Democracy” in Foreign Policy. I have an Oxford Bibliography forthcoming called “Venezuelan Politics and Foreign Policy,” and a book chapter under review called “U.S. Foreign Policy, the Opposition and the Maduro Government: Venezuela’s Authoritarian Slide in Ten Episodes.”

All of this contributes to my two book projects. I am writing a book on students and socialism with my Venezuelan colleague Hugo Pérez Hernáiz that aims to understand the character and dilemmas of 21st Century socialism when that was the leading discourse of Chavismo. And I continue to work on my two volume book Venezuela’s Transition to Illiberalism which will us Weberian conflict theory to analyze multiple facets of the Venezuela conflict including electoral politics, freedom of expression, crime and violence, corruption, higher education and foreign relations.

Selected Publications

2024 – Smilde, David, and Isabel Rowan Scarpino. “Washington’s Ability to Pressure Maduro is Limited.” Foreign Policy. February 21.

2022 – Smilde, David, Verónica Zubillaga and Rebecca Hanson (eds.). The Paradox of Violence in Venezuela: Revolution, Crime and Policing. Pittsburgh

2022 – Smilde, David “U.S.-Venezuela Oil Deal Must Not Forget Democracy,” Foreign Policy. March 8.

2021 – Smilde, David. “From Populist to Socialist to Authoritarian Chavismo—Obstacles and Opportunities for Democratic Change.” Venezuela Working Group, Latin America Program, Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, Washington D.C.

2021 – Smilde, David. “Trump’s bluster failed Venezuela. Biden must use diplomatic and economic levers to address the crisis.Washington Post. January 19. (also published in Spanish.

2020 – Smilde, David and Geoff Ramsey. “International Peacemaking in Venezuela’s Intractable Conflict: 2014-2019,” European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Issue 109. Jan-June.

2020 – Smilde, David. “Trump and Venezuela: Reaffirming the Monroe Doctrine.” The Future of U.S. Empire in the Americas: The Trump Administration and Beyond. Timothy Gill (ed.). London: Routledge.

2017 – Smilde, David. “From Partial to Full Conflict Theory: A Neoweberian Portrait of the Venezuelan Conflict.” Tulia Faletti and Emilio Parrado (eds.) Latin America Since the Left Turn. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.