Krystal A. Smalls PhD

Profile picture for Krystal A. Smalls PhD

Contact Information

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Davenport Hall - Rm 385
607 S. Mathews Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801
Assistant Professor

Research Interests

Linguistic Anthropology, Sociolinguistics, African Diaspora Studies
Race, Semiotics, Digital Space, Personhood, Gender, Language Ideology, Discourse, Hip Hop, Diaspora Studies

Research Description

I study the semiosis of race in young people's lives by conducting ethnographic research in different locations of the "African diaspora" (mostly digital or urban). My work specifically concerns the discourses and practices that constitute blackness, antiblackness, and anti-antiblackness.

One of my recent projects concerning digital subjectivity (there are a few) considers how uses of "emphatically black" and "intentionallly black" language and discourse in digital space function as public refusals of antiblack "raciolinguistic ideologies" (Rosa & Flores 2017) and semiotically, may help reconfigure racialized signs in significant ways. 

I've worked extensively with young urbanites in Monrovia, Liberia and Philadelphia, PA in the US, and I'm in the early stages of a new project with my cultural community: the Gullah/Geechee of coastal and insular South Carolina.


PhD, University of Pennsylvania (2015)
BS, Cornell University (2000)

Additional Campus Affiliations

Assistant Professor, Linguistics

Recent Publications

Smalls, K. A. (2018). Fighting Words: Antiblackness and Discursive Violence in an American High School. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 28(3), 356-383.

Smalls, K. A. (2018). Languages of Liberation: Digital Discourses of Emphatic Blackness. In N. Avineri, L. R. Graham, E. J. Johnson, R. C. Riner, & J. Rosa (Eds.), Language and Social Justice in Practice (pp. 52-60). New York: Routledge.

Smalls, K. A. (2018). Racialized Masculinity in Digital Space. In A. M. Cox (Ed.), Gender: Space (pp. 301-316). (Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks). Macmillan Reference USA.

Smalls, K. A. (2014). Corrigendum to "'We had lighter tongues': Making and mediating Gullah/Geechee personhood in the South Carolina Lowcountry" [Lang. Commun. 32 (2012) 147-159]. Language and Communication, 39.

Smalls, K. A. (2014). The proverbial monkey on our backs: Exploring the politics of belonging among transnational African high school students in the US. In J. Koyama, & M. Subramanian (Eds.), US Education in a World of Migration: Implications for Policy and Practice (pp. 19-37). Taylor and Francis.

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