About me

Headshot of Kendra Calhoun


I’m an interdisciplinary sociocultural linguist, and I earned my Ph.D. in Linguistics from UC Santa Barbara in 2021. I’m currently a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at UCLA.

I earned my B.A. in English Language & Literature and Experimental Psychology from the University of South Carolina in 2013 (go Gamecocks!) and my M.A. in Linguistics at UC Santa Barbara. I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I use she/her pronouns, and I identify as Black.

In my interdisciplinary research, I critically analyze the intersections of language, race, identity, and power and how they manifest in face-to-face and mediated contexts, particularly multimodal social media contexts. I’m especially interested in the linguistic and cultural practices of Black people in the U.S., and I bring together theories and methods from fields including sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, discourse studies, media studies, sociology, and Black Studies. My research on social media explores discourse practices on Vine, Tumblr, Twitter, and Tik Tok, and in my dissertation research I analyzed institutional diversity rhetoric in U.S. higher education and the effects of diversity discourses and practices on graduate students of color in the U.S.

You can find the most recent version of my CV here.

Recent news and highlights

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

In February 2021 I presented an invited talk as part of the Inclusive Pedagogy in Linguistics series in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago: “Centering Black Language and Culture in Introductory Linguistics: A Model for Improving Racial Equity in Linguistics Pedagogy”

In January I co-presented a talk at the 2021 annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America with my UCSB colleague Joyhanna Yoo Garza: ” “Oh my [mɑ] god”: Appropriation of African American English and the Construction of Asian American Identity in Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra

I was a Fall 2020 Research Fellow in the “Disciplining Diversity” residential research group through the UC Humanities Research Institute

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

I co-presented “This IS Linguistics: Scope, Positionality, and Graduate Apprenticeship when Diversifying the Linguistics Curriculum” with deandre miles-hercules and Jamaal Muwwakkil. The webinar is part of the Linguistic Society of America’s “Racial Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Linguistics Curriculum” series. You can watch the recording and see our slides on the LSA website.

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”