Research

Book Manuscript: Gender, Race and Performance Space: Women’s Activism in Jamaican and South African Theatre. Under contract with University of Illinois Press. ***Winner of the 2017 National Women’s Studies/University of Illinois Press First Book Prize.

About the Book

Africana women’s experiences are characterized by a milieu of differences and intersections – of time, of space, of place, of physicality; distinguished by race, sexuality, gender, class and cartographic boundaries. These are affected by the experiences of the middle passage, colonialism, segregation, apartheid and modern spatial trans/figurations such as gentrification and the ghettoization of Black communities throughout the world.

Considering this history and present, how do Africana women use performance to define and redefine the gendered bounds of geographic space ?  And

How is this defining and redefining situated in imaginations of democracy and freedom  that center racial, gender, sexual and economic justice?

In response to these two questions my book makes two central assertions. First, that theatre exists as an essential theoretical and practical means through which Africana women have forged feminisms and womanism.  Second, an examination of public and site-specific women’s theatre allows us to comprehend the different ways that Africana women are creating pedagogies that frame democracy beyond its electoral-specific conceptualization to encapsulate gender, sexual, racial and economic justice.

The book focuses on the work of four groups, projects and organizations. These are, Sistren Theatre Collective and the Letters from the Dead Project in Jamaica, and The Mothertongue Project and Olive Tree Theatre Company in South Africa. Shakes locates them within nationally-specific contexts of Jamaican and South African theatre as well as the global context of Africana women’s performance-based pedagogy.  Through public and site-specific performances these groups disrupt the problematic ways that women’s bodies are racially and sexually interpreted as they move within the public sphere. Concurrently, by focusing on marginalized Black communities they transgress the geographic manifestations of gender-based, racial and economic inequalities.

Watch Nicosia Shakes speak about her research, with reference to Sistren Theatre Collective, Jamaica and The Mothertongue Project, South Africa here.
hannah-town-pic
Nicosia Shakes with members of the Hannah Town Cultural Group, creators and performers of “A Slice of Reality”in Hannah Town, Kingston, Jamaica, June 2015.

Other photos from top: Isiko Lam, written and directed by Pamella Nketke, at the Olive Tree Women’s Theatre Festival, 2015| Song for the Beloved, an exhibition and performance from the Letters from the Dead Project (curated by Honor Ford-Smith, Anique J. Jordan, Kara Springer), Kingston, Jamaica 2015| Sistren Theatre Collective in rehearsal, circa 1980.