nicosia-headshotNicosia Shakes is a Jamaican scholar/artist with a PhD in Africana Studies from Brown University. She   teaches in The Department of Africana Studies at The College of Wooster, Ohio. Her research focuses on race, gender and sexuality in theater and performance, particularly how theatre serves as an integral component in activism around gender justice. Shakes’ book project 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.  The book examines the critical interventions being made by theater collectives formed and operated by women of African descent – in particular, their ontological engagements around sexual and reproductive rights. Their work allows us to understand the links between feminist thought and feminist practice through performance as well as the impact of activism on aesthetic formations among African and African-descended people. It is an expansion of her 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, was produced in 2016 by Rites and Reason Theatre in Providence and is in pre-production for May 2018 at The Phillip Sherlock Centre for the Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica. It is the first in a series called, The Afiba Cycle, in which Shakes represents Jamaican women’s pasts and presents using traditional and new methods of storytelling. Read about it in her blog.

Research interests: African and African Diasporic gender and sexuality and theater and performance studies, Pan-Africanism and Black Radical Thought in Africa and the Americas.

Selected Publications

Book Chapters:

“The Radical Aesthetic of Sistren Theatre Collective.” In Caribbean Reasonings: Rupert Lewis and the Black Intellectual Tradition, Eds. Clinton Hutton, Jermaine McCalpin and Maziki Thame. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers. Forthcoming 2017.

“Marketing Pan-Africanism to a New Generation: The Case of Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey.” In Pan-Africanism: Strengthening the Unity of Africa and its Diaspora, Eds. B.F. Bankie and K. Mchombu, 71-94. Windhoek, Namibia: Gamsberg MacMillan Publishers Ltd., 2006.

“Legitimizing Africa in Jamaica.” In After Man: Towards the Human: Critical Essays on Sylvia Wynter, Ed. Anthony Bogues, 200-314. Miami and Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2005.

Peer-Reviewed Essays:

“History and Drama in C.L.R. James’ ‘Toussaint L’Ouverture’.” The C.L.R. James Journal 23rd Anniversary Issue, Nos. 1 & 2(2014): 38-60.

“In Search of Garvey’s Genealogy: A Preliminary Analysis.” Jamaica Journal 33 No. 3 (2012): 30-59.

Recent Awards and Fellowships

National Women’s Studies Association/University of Illinois Press First Book Prize, 2017

Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Award, Brown University, 2017.

Marie J. Langlois Prize for Outstanding Dissertation in an area of feminist studies, Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, 2017.

George Houston Bass Award for Academic and Artistic Excellence, Rites and Reason Theatre, The Department of Africana Studies, Brown University, 2016.

Mellon-funded Global Graduates Fellowship: “Brown in the World, the World at Brown,” Cogut Centre for the Humanities, Brown University, 2015.

Steinhaus/Zisson Research Grant, Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, Brown University, 2015.

Inter-American Foundation (IAF) Grassroots Development Dissertation Research Fellowship, 2014-2015.


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