Dr. Kyra Gaunt, Ph.D.

Prize-winning author of The Games Black Girls Play from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop, 2007 co-winner of Alan Merriam Prize for most outstanding book by the Society for Ethnomusicology.

Stemming from a career of research and writing about black girlhood, I teach emerging adults to own their own greatness; to voice their intellectual fitness and demonstrate their ecological literacy as media creators and local citizens of a hyperconnected world. I do this through courses in cultural anthropology, ethnomusicology, YouTube digital ethnography and political sociology.

My work is about empathy, digital media literacy, and ownership of one's voice, body and creations off- and on-line in a globally-connected social world. Through engaged ethnographic study of online musical behavior with a focus on race, gender and age, my students and I watch black girls who twerk on YouTube to learn more about ourselves and the changing worlds we all occupy.

I challenge college students to dare to be different; to lead their own lives as an example of learning and living courageously. I challenge them to dare to see things differently than what they inherited, to move in, and occupy, spaces in new and different ways.

Studying black girls who twerk on YouTube is both the medium of, and the message for, developing empathy around lifestyles that are as different and daring as our own. The aim of higher education should be to co-develop ourselves as leaders in diverse and intersectional thinking that can change our own views of the world as the access to changing our shared culture.

2009 inaugural TED Fellow. 2011 Finalist for Nokia Special Connecting People Shorty Award. Ford Foundation Post-doc Fellow. NEH Post-doc Fellow.

Classically-trained, R&B singer-songwriter, & improvisational vocalist. Buy her CD here.


  • Black Girls YouTube: Twerking
  • One-woman show: Education, Liberation, I love you!: A vocal memoir of race, gender and musical blackness