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, Hip Hop, Gender

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 and antiblackness.I've worked extensively with young urbanites in Liberia and the US (Philadelphia), and have recently begun working 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

  • "“Languages of Liberation: Making Black Lives Matter Through Digital Discourse”." Language and Social Justice: Case Studies on Communication and the Creation of Just Societies . Routledge, 2018.

  • 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):

  • "“Flipping the Script: (Re)constructing Personhood through Hip Hop Languaging in a U.S. High School." Working Papers in Educational Linguistics 25.2 (2010):

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