Assistant Professor, Dept. of History and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, University of California Merced

Ph.D., Africana Studies, Brown University

Nicosia Shakes is a scholar-artist specializing in African and African Diasporic political activism, gender and sexuality, and performance cultures. Her book manuscript is titled, Gender, Race and Performance Space: Women’s Activism in Jamaican and South African Theatre.  It is the winner of the National Women’s Studies Association/University of Illinois Press First Book Prize 2017 and under contract with the University of Illinois Press.  The book examines the critical interventions being made by theater collectives formed and operated by African and African-descended women. These groups use theatre to center racial, gender and economic justice, as well as the importance of healing amidst tremendous historical and current violence against Black people. Specifically, they comment on the following: continuing struggles for reproductive and sexual rights for women; the ways that histories of slavery, colonialism and apartheid continue to define Black/Africana women’s ontology; and the gendered effects of gang and state violence within poor inner-city communities. Their work allows us to understand the links between feminist/womanist thought and practice through theatre as well as how activism shapes theatre aesthetics in Africa and the Diaspora. The book is an expansion of Dr. Shakes’ dissertation, “Africana Women’s Theatre as Activism: A Study of Sistren Theatre Collective, Jamaica and The Mothertongue Project, South Africa.” This dissertation received the 2017 Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Award (Humanities) from Brown University, and the Marie J. Langlois Prize for an Outstanding Dissertation in the area of feminist studies from the Pembroke Center, Brown University.

Afiba and Her Daughters, her first full-length play, premiered in 2016 at Rites and Reason Theatre in Providence. It is the first in a series called, The Afiba Cycle, in which she represents Jamaican women’s pasts and presents using traditional and new methods of storytelling. Read about it in her blog

Dr. Shakes earned her PhD in Africana Studies from Brown University in 2017 and is currently Assistant Professor in The Department of History and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at University of California, Merced. She formerly taught in the Department of Africana Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at The College of Wooster.

Email:, Twitter: @DrNicShakes

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