Kendra Calhoun, Ph.D. (she/her)

University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, UCLA

I’m an interdisciplinary sociocultural linguist with a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. I earned my B.A. in English Language & Literature and Experimental Psychology from the University of South Carolina (go Gamecocks!).

As a qualitative researcher, I critically analyze the intersections of language, identity, and power in face-to-face and mediated contexts. I examine race, gender, humor, activism, social media discourse, and institutional discourses in higher education, and I am particularly focused on the language, culture, and experiences of Black people in the U.S. I bring together theories and methods from fields including sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, discourse studies, media studies, sociology, education, and Black Studies. My postdoctoral research is a linguistic-anthropological study of the documentation of Black language and culture on TikTok.

I’m passionate about teaching, mentorship, and equity in higher education, and I’ve integrated them with my research throughout my academic career. In addition to teaching at multiple Minority Serving Institutions, I’ve contributed to multiple community-based collaborative projects.

Recent news & Highlights


My co-authored talk “They edited out her nip nops”: Linguistic innovation as textual censorship avoidance on TikTok” has been accepted for presentation at LSA 2022

I successfully defended my dissertation, Competing Discourses of Diversity and Inclusion: Institutional Rhetoric and Graduate Student Narratives at Two Minority Serving Institutions

My co-authored paper “Attracting Black Students to Linguistics Through a Black-Centered Introduction to Linguistics Course” was published in Language

My research on everyday online activism on Black Tumblr was published in a tumblr book: platform and cultures

Invited talks

“Centering Black Language and Culture in Introductory Linguistics: A Model for Improving Racial Equity in Linguistics Pedagogy”: Inclusive Pedagogy in Linguistics series in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago

This IS Linguistics: Scope, Positionality, and Graduate Apprenticeship when Diversifying the Linguistics Curriculum” with deandre miles-hercules and Jamaal Muwwakkil as part of the Linguistic Society of America’s “Racial Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Linguistics Curriculum” series

Analyzing Race, Humor, and Activism Online Through the Lens of Black Digital Culture,” University of Kent, School of European Culture and Languages

In the media

I was interviewed for an article by Nerdist about the history of LOL: “An Oral History of LOL”

I was interviewed for an article by Vox about the evolution of “Karen”: “How the ‘Karen’ meme evolved from entitled mom to mask-off racist”

I appeared on The Vocal Fries podcast to discuss my research on African American humor on Vine: “Read Between the Vines”