Tanya L. Shields
Director of Undergraduate Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies
Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies
Director, Carolina Seminarstshields@email.unc.edu
PhD University of Maryland
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)
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 Perkins and I contributed the essay, “Telling Stories of Home: Pedagogy, Practice and the Potential for Lasting Change,” to Engaging the African Diaspora in K-12 Education, 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.