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Tanya L. Shields

Director of Undergraduate Studies
208 Smith Bldg
CB #3135

Chapel Hill, NC 27599

919-962-3908 (phone)
919-962-5839 (fax)

Associate Professor

I am an associate professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies for Women’s and Gender Studies, a past fellow of the Carolina Women’s Center Faculty Fellowship, and a recent recipient of the Institute of Arts and Humanities’ Academic Leadership Fellowship.

My research focuses on Caribbean studies and plantation logics. My book, Bodies and Bones: Feminist Rehearsal and Imagining Caribbean Belonging (2014), examines the ways in which rehearsing historical events and archetypal characters shapes belonging to the region using feminist rehearsal as a methodology. Feminist rehearsal posits that repeated engagements with a text not only allow us to explore the ways in which we constantly negotiate belonging, but also how repeated feminist interrogations help us build consensus and community.  I am the editor of The Legacy of Eric Williams: Into the Postcolonial Moment (2015), which examines the contributions of Eric Williams, the first prime minister of independent Trinidad and Tobago. I am currently at work on my second monograph, “Gendered Labor: Race, Place and Power on Female-Owned Plantations,” a comparative study of women who owned plantations in the Caribbean and U.S. South. I have been excited to share this work with colleagues at Sam Houston University and Davidson College.  In addition to these talks,  I have published in a number of venues including the journals Souls, Women, Gender, and Families of Color, and Identities; as well as edited volumes such as  The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Constructing Vernacular Culture in the Trans-Caribbean. Recent publications include “Hell and Grace: Palimpsestic Belonging in The True History of Paradise and Crossing the Mangrove (2018) and “Magnolia Longing: The Plantation Tour as Palimpsest” (2017)

This year, I edited a special issue of Cultural Dynamics called, “Collisions: Home, History and Storytelling,” which includes essays from presenters at the “Telling Our Stories of Home: Exploring and Celebrating Changing African and African Diaspora Communities conference, which I convened with Kathy Perkins. Additionally, Kathy and I contributed the essay, “Telling Stories of Home: Pedagogy, Practice and the Potential for Lasting Change,” to a forthcoming volume on incorporating Africa and its diaspora in the K-12 classroom, edited by Kia L. Caldwell and Emily Chavez. This work has been significant as a way of connecting our research with the wider community, specifically helping teachers beyond our classrooms develop more robust and inclusive curricula.

My research and teaching are interwoven. I teach classes on the Caribbean, the arts of activism, growing up girl globally, and the continuing influence of plantation economics and politics. In fact, my class, “Rahtid Rebel Women: An Introduction to the Caribbean,” was listed as number 7 on Elle Magazine’s “63 College Classes that Give Us Hope for the Next Generation.

Like research and teaching, service brings together issues of art and activism. I am a board member for the Maryland-based Carivision Community Theater, which seeks to use theater as space of exchange between Caribbean and U.S. theater audiences. I’m excited about my collaboration with the Houston-based Process Theatre’s “Plantation Remix” project for which I serve as dramaturge.

I earned my Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Maryland at College Park.

4 Responses to “Tanya L. Shields”

  1. NEH-funded project to explore meaning of ‘home’ in African diaspora communities | College of Arts and Sciences

    […] members in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences — Kathy Perkins, professor of dramatic art, and Tanya Shields, associate professor of women’s and gender studies — will kick off with a conference and […]

  2. ‘Rooms: A Dance Drama’ explores issues of gender, race, identity | College of Arts & Sciences

    […] taking a course about art and activism with associate professor of women’s and gender studies Tanya Shields, who helped me think about the idea of intersectional feminism and how I could incorporate women of […]

  3. ‘Rooms: A Dance Drama’ explores issues of gender, race, identity | Carolina's Human Heart

    […] taking a course about art and activism with associate professor of women’s and gender studies Tanya Shields, who helped me think about the idea of intersectional feminism and how I could incorporate women of […]

  4. Tanya Shields, Associate Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies | INSTITUTE for the ARTS & HUMANITIES

    […] Shields is an Academic Leadership Program Fellow and director of undergraduate studies in her department. She discusses her latest work as dramaturge for the production of Plantation Remix Houston-based Progress Theater. “trauma and violence that people tour and enjoy, they want to disrupt that. Helping build the context for the structure of the play. An advisor to the playwright. I am also learning how a play is created, especially a play that wants to be an intervention in the world. […]