Steven Black is an anthropologist with a PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is teaching at Rutgers University during the 2011-2012 academic year.  His research interests include language as social action, stigma, verbal art, globalization/ neoliberalism and structural inequality, improvisation, intersubjectivity, and the intersection of language and music.  He has done fieldwork in Durban, South Africa and assisted in fieldwork done in Los Angeles.  He is the recipient of various awards, including the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, the Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad, and a Foreign Language and Area Studies Grant.  He is also an accomplished tenor saxophone player (hear some of his music on myspace music).

Cross-cutting Steven’s diverse research interests and artistic activities is his interest in creativity and improvisation, and his concern for further integrating notions of the experience of using language into linguistic anthropological and sociolinguistic models of language and social life. Steven asks questions such as: how does creativity build upon or emerge out of pre-existing structures? What is the role of improvisation in everyday life? How do artistic activities open up spaces for social transformation, and what are the conditions in which sociocultural patterns end up being reinforced despite a focus on creativity and improvisation?

Recently published research pieces and pieces to be published in the near future:

“Language Socialization and Verbal Improvisation,” (co-authored with Alessandro Duranti). A chapter in The Handbook of Language Socialization. Wiley-Blackwell Publishers, 2011.


“Laughing to Death: Joking as Support Amidst Stigmatization for isiZulu Speaking South Africans Living with HIV,” To be published in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology” in June 2012.

* Picture details: Steve accepting traditional Zulu beer from the father of his research assistant in the family’s Zulu roundhouse/ ritual center (father not shown due to IRB agreement)

Steven P. Black - Homepage