Photo of Kira Smith

Kira Smith

Contract Instructor

Degrees:B.A. Hons (Carleton University); M.A. (Carleton University); Ph.D. (York University, In-Progress)

Kira A. Smith is a public historian, creative writer, and activist. Her current research examines the lived experiences of children in Canadian asylums from 1880 to 1930. In doing so, she uses archival materials and arts-based interpretations to move away from the medical model of understanding mad histories to focus on the children institutionalized across Canada. This research is funded by SSHRC in honour of Nelson Mandela. Kira has also researched the experiences individuals at the Brockville Asylum, and wrote a short novella The Red Chair, which emerged from her M.A. research project in Public History.

Academic Interests

Mad studies; Disability History; Canadian History; Public History; Archival Theory; Creative Research Methods; Childhood


Deporting Mad Girls: The Colliding of the Century of the Child and the Century of Canada.Friends of the CAMH Archive Newsletter. Autumn 2022.

Using Fiction to Tell Mad Stories: A Journey into Historical Imagination and Empathy.Rethinking History.

Not Good Enough for Canada: Canadian Public Discourse around Issues of Inadmissibility for Potential Immigrants with Diseases and/or Disabilities, 1902-2002 (Review).” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 39, 1 (2022): 193–196.

Ritualizing Madness: Case Files as Sites of Enforced Performativity, 1894-1950.Canadian Journal of Disability Studies 10, 1 (2021): 1-22

Selected Presentations

“Selective Care: The Death of Children in British Columbian Asylums, 1900-1920.” Compassion and Care Emotions and Experience in the Care of Children through History Conference, Manchester, UK. March 2023.

“Institutionalizing and Deporting Eileen: The Intersections of Youth Criminalization, Nation Building, and Compliance.” Critical Disability Studies Conference, Virtual. August 2022.

“Representing Disability in Josei Manga: What Perfect World Tells Us About the State and Future of Disability.” Conference of the Canadian Society for the Study of Comics, Virtual. May 2022.

“Mad Positive Pedagogy: Mobilizing Kindness and Compassion.” STAY Symposium, York University. May 2022.

“Blackness, Madness, and Citizenship: The Admission and Deportation of John D.” The Canadian Historical Association, Virtual. May 2021.

“Maddening Asylum Historiography: Challenging the Biomedical Dominance” Challenging the Dominant Narrative, The Interdisciplinary California State Graduate Conference, Virtual. November 2020.

“The Lost Voices Project: Writing Historical Fiction as a Historian.” Annual Meeting of the National Council for Public History, Nevada, Las Vegas. April 2018.

“Unconventional Methodology: Historical Fiction and Asylum Experiences.” Alternative histories: Methodologies, Facts and Visions, University of Tampere, Finland. November 2017.