Davenport Hall - Rm 385
607 S. Mathews Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801
Linguistic Anthropology and Sociolinguistics, Cultural Anthropology, African Diaspora Studies
- race, semiotics, digital space, personhood, gender, discourse, language ideology, hip hop, migration
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, anti-Blackness, and anti-anti-Blackness.
One of my recent projects concerning digital subjectivity and sociality (there are a few) considers how uses of "emphatically Black" and "intentionallly Black" language and discourse in digital space function as public refusals of anti-Black "raciolinguistic ideologies" (Rosa & Flores 2017) and semiotically, may help reracialize public spaces and reconfigure racialized signs in significant ways. Another project in development examines uses of Black bodies in reaction memes/gifs and of Black body parts in internet-mediated images by non-Black people and situates these recursive digital practices within a timeline of slavery and its afterlife (following Saidiya Hartman's retemporalization of the present), and therefore within a history of corporeal theft (specifically, different practices of possession, body-snatching, dismemberment).
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
I'm currently working on a monograph titled Telling Blackness: Young Liberians, Antiblackness, and the Semiotics of Contemporary Diaspora with Oxford University Press and will soon be publishing a chapter called "Race, Language, and the Body: Towards a Theory of Racial Semiotics" in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Race (Eds. H. Samy Alim, Angela Reyes, and Paul Kroskrity).
Smalls, K. A. (2018). Fighting Words: Antiblackness and Discursive Violence in an American High School. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 28(3), 356-383. https://doi.org/10.1111/jola.12197
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). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315115702-7
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). 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. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315832630
Smalls, K. A. (2013). Review: Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity . John L. Jackson, Jr. Chicago, IL, and London, UK: The University of Chicago Press, 2005. [vii] + 298 pp. . Transforming Anthropology, 21(2), 205.