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Steven Black

Associate Professor    

Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 2010


Linguistic anthropology, psychological anthropology, medical anthropology


Dr. Black’s research examines verbal art, performance, and illness experiences, with a regional focus on southern Africa. Through these foci, his work connects to the anthropological study of gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, globalization, neoliberalism, and international aid. In his professional activities, Dr. Black emphasizes anthropological ethics and engaged scholarship, working in dialogue with public discourses, public policies, and the concerns and goals of research participants. He has studied HIV/AIDS support and activism and is in the initial stages of a project on humanitarian aid, conceptualizations of health, and linguistic practice. Dr. Black is on the advisory board for the journal, Anthropology and Humanism, and is the chair of the Committee on Ethics of the American Anthropological Association.

In Durban, South Africa, Dr. Black conducted ethnographic fieldwork with a Zulu gospel choir that was an HIV support group and AIDS activist organization. His interest in Zulu gospel music was linked to his background as a jazz saxophonist, including a B.A. in ethnomusicology. He expects the themes of performance and verbal art to resurface in his new project in analysis of how humanitarian aid organizations present themselves and create activist messages Dr. Black speaks isiZulu (a.k.a. Zulu) and Spanish. In addition to playing saxophone, guitar, and piano, Dr. Black enjoys the outdoors in urban, rural and park forms, and he has hiked and run through these spaces on five continents.


(To Appear). “Language and Sexual Stigma.” In Kira Hall and Edward Barrett (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Language and Sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.

(To Appear). “Music and Language.” In Hillary Calan (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Black, S. and E. Falconi (In Press). “Linguistic Anthropology and Ethnolinguistics.” In The Handbook of Linguistics, 2nd Edition, edited by Mark Aronoff and Janie Rees-Miller. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

(2017). “Anthropological Ethics and the Communicative Affordances of Audio-Video Recorders in Ethnographic Fieldwork: Transduction as Theory.” American Anthropologist 119 (1).

(2015). “The Morality of Performance: HIV Disclosure on Stage and in Everyday Life in South Africa.” Ethos 43(3).

(2014). “The Intersubjective Space-Time of a Zulu Choir/ HIV Support Group in Global Perspective.” Special issue, Doing (Things With) Sounds: Music As a Site of Social Semiosis. In Social Semiotics 24(4): 1-21.

(2013). “Narrating Fragile Stories About HIV/AIDS in South Africa.” Pragmatics and Society 4(3): 345-368.

(2013). “Stigma and Ideological Constructions of the Foreign: Facing HIV/AIDS in South Africa.” Language in Society 42(5):481-502.

(2013). “Linguistic Anthropology in 2012: Language Matter(s).” American Anthropologist 115(2):269-282.

(2012). “Laughing to Death: Joking as Support Amid Stigma for Zulu-Speaking South Africans Living with HIV/AIDS.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 22(1):87-108.

Duranti, A. & S. Black (2012). “Language Socialization and Verbal Improvisation.” In A. Duranti, E. Ochs, & B. Schieffelin (eds.), The Handbook of Language Socialization. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, p. 443-463.

(2010). Dissertation Mss. Facing HIV/AIDS Stigmatization in South Africa Through Language and Music.

(2008). “Creativity and Learning Jazz: The Practice of ‘Listening’.” Mind, Culture, and Activity 15(4): 279-295.

(2005). M.A. Thesis. “The Paradox of Teaching Creativity: Communicative Strategies for Teaching Group Interplay in Small Jazz Ensembles.”