Dr. Krystal A. Smalls

Assistant Professor of Linguistics
Assistant Professor of African American Studies

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Specializations / Research Interest(s)

  • Linguistic Anthropology, Sociolinguistics, African Diaspora Studies
  • Race, Semiotics, Personhood, Language Ideology, Digital Sociality

Research Description

  • My research revolves around semiotics of race in young people's lives.  I conduct ethnographic research in different locations of the "African diaspora" (mostly digital or urban) to better understand discourses and practices of blackness and antiblackness.I've worked with young urbanites in Liberia, Kenya, and the US (Philadelphia), and I've recently begun work in Johannesburg, South Africa and with my own cultural community, the Gullah/Geechee of coastal and insular South Carolina.


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


Book Contributions

  • Smalls, Krystal A. "The Proverbial Monkey on Our Backs: Exploring the Politics of Belonging among Transnational African High School Students in the US." US Education in a World of Migration. Ed. Jill Koyama and Mathangi Subramanian. Routledge, 2014.

Journal Articles

  • Smalls, Krystal A. "'We Had Lighter Tongues': Making and Mediating Gullah/Geechee personhood in the South Carolina Lowcountry." Language & Communication 32.20 (2012):

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