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

Ph.D., Africana Studies, Brown University

Nicosia Shakes is a scholar and artist specializing in African Diasporic political activism, race, gender and sexuality, and theatre and performance. Her book manuscript is titled, Women’s Activist Theater in Jamaica and South Africa: Gender, Race, and Performance Space.  It won the National Women’s Studies Association/University of Illinois Press First Book Prize in 2017 and is forthcoming with UIP.  The book examines the critical interventions made by theatre projects formed and operated by African and African-descended women. Through performance, these groups theorize about racial, gender and economic justice in Jamaica and South Africa. Specifically, they comment on the following, continuing struggles for reproductive and sexual rights for women; the legacies of slavery, colonialism and apartheid and the gendered effects of gang and state violence in poor communities. Their work allows us to understand how activism shapes theatre aesthetics and vice versa, in Africa and the Diaspora. Women’s Activist Theater in Jamaica and South Africa is based on 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 a 2017 Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Award from Brown University, and the Marie J. Langlois Prize for an outstanding dissertation in the area of feminist studies from the Pembroke Center at Brown.

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 people’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. She holds BSc and MSc degrees in Political Science and Government from the University of the West Indies, Mona and is also a graduate of the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting. Prior to joining the faculty of the University of California, Merced, she taught in the Department of Africana Studies and the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program at The College of Wooster.

Email:, Twitter: @DrNicShakes

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