Join Shannon @ Two Events Next Week

Shannon facilitates community discussions on the limits and possibilities of identity politics in the contemporary American moment:

Tuesday, October 27

Tuesday, November 17

Tuesday, December 1

All events are 7-9 pm at the Minnesota Humanities Center, 987 Ivy Ave E, St. Paul, MN 55106.

You do not need to attend all discussions in order to participate; you may attend as many as you are able. Or, join us on Twitter at #uncoveringpublic.

To find out more information, please click here, or read below.

Registration is appreciated, in order to plan for a successful event.


What assumptions shape our public spaces? How is it that some perspectives are rendered invisible in public, while others are reinforced? And how do the (often unstated) assumptions of public life limit our collective ability to address important issues? In a series of three discussions, participants will be invited to engage in conversations about the state of public life in the United States. A short presentation will serve as the foundation for an open and challenging discussion the requires a broad range of perspectives.

Identity Politics in the American Present

Dates: Tuesday, October 27, November 17, and December 1, 2015
Time: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Location: Minnesota Humanities Center, 987 Ivy Ave E, St. Paul, MN 55106
Cost: $5 per session

Please join the discussion on our Twitter Town Hall.

What are the limits and possibilities of connecting through personal identities in 21st century America? What do we mean when we say, the “black vote,” or the “black community,” or “black culture,” and how do these identities serve or trouble notions of community and democracy? Is there still a place for engaging around identity when so many of us express so many identities at once (gay, middle-class, female, Latino, etc.)? In what ways can organizing around identity limit equitable democratic and social participation—particularly for those who have historically been left out? And, on the contrary, how might “identity politics” encourage greater participation or deeper engagement?

In a series of public discussions, Shannon Gibney will facilitate conversations about the state of identity politics in the United States. In each session, a short presentation will serve as the foundation for an open and challenging discussion that requires a broad range of perspectives. These dialogues will center on the following topics and questions:

Session One: Defining Terms—Identity, Culture, and Power

What do we mean by the term “identity politics,” and what role does it play in American life today? How do “identity politics” inform our political and cultural lives? Why are some identities in America, and organizing around them, seen as “political,” and others as simply “normal”? And is it always useful to link political affiliations to the race, gender, sex of one’s body? In this session, Gibney will facilitate a discussion on definitions that establish the peculiar dynamics of “identity politics” as practiced in the United States.

Session Two: Identity Politics in the Present
What are the main issues in identity politics right now? How do we understand these cultural tensions as they are played out in our personal, interpersonal, and institutional lives? What are the stakes in organizing ourselves around a politics of the body in this contemporary moment? Gibney will present a real-life case study illustrating the contentiousness and possibilities of identity politics in our era, and ask participants to reflect on their utility and limits.

Session Three: Beyond Identity Politics?
In America under President Obama, plenty of people have suggested that we are now living in a “post-racial” era. At a time when racial disparities in health, housing, employment, incarceration, and education remain stubbornly high—particularly in Minnesota—what does it mean to suggest that identity may not be a nimble enough category to organize around? Are there perhaps other categories of politics—those beyond the body, for example—that might ultimately lead us to a more multi-vocal, robust society? In this final session, Gibney will invite participants to question the limits of identity politics as they have been practiced thus far, and to envision alternate and/or additional strategies for establishing connectedness.

Shannon Gibney lives, writes, and teaches in Minneapolis. Her creative and critical work has been published in a variety of venues, including in the anthologies Parenting as Adoptees, and The Black Imagination: Science Fiction, Futurism, and the Speculative. Her young adult novel See No Colorwas published by Carolrhoda/Lerner Books in November 2015, and she is currently at work on a novel about African Americans who colonized Liberia in the 19th century.

Questions: Kirk MacKinnon Morrow, 651-772-4252,

This event is funded in part with support from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund that was created by a vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008 and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Please join Shannon and others for a discussion on “Trigger Warnings” in the higher ed classroom:

Thursday, October 29, at 4 pm

Crosby Seminar Room, 2nd Floor East Side, 240 Northrop, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Free and open to the public.

Trigger warnings are designed to prevent unaware encounters with topics that might elicit strong and damaging emotional responses in some people. Some call them a bandaid; others raise issues of academic freedom. This discussion will focus on how we can reframe and move beyond these debates to address how we can create a community in which all our members feel secure and respected, while also being able to examine difficult and controversial issues. Continuing the conversation started by a panel on trigger warnings last fall in the department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, this event is cosponsored by the Office of the Provost as part of ongoing Campus Climate work, which will include a series of forums on Academic Freedom over the coming year.

Angela M. Carter, Graduate Instructor & Ph.D Candidate in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, UMN
Shannon Gibney, Faculty in English, MCTC
Roozbeh Shirazi, Comparative and International Development Education, UMN

Moderated by Jigna Desai, Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies and Asian American Studies, UMN

This event is cosponsored by the Race, Indigeneity, Gender, and Sexuality (RIGS) Initiative.

Click here to visit the event webpage.

10.29.15 Trigger Warnings 2



Shannon, Ananya Chatterjea, Hui Nui Wilcox, and Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley wrote a creative and critical essay together, about dance as labor, as an expression of the truth of women of color’s lives, in the new anthology CRITICAL TRANSNATIONAL FEMINIST PRAXIS, edited by Amanda Lock Swarr and Richa Nagar (SUNY Press, 2010).

The essay is titled, “So Much to Remind Us We Are Dancing on Other Peoples’ Blood: Moving Towards Artistic Excellence, Moving from Silence, Moving in Water, with Ananya Dance Theatre,” and features sections in multiple voices about our experiences carving out a safe and productive space for women of color to explore differences and similarities, learn each other’s cultural histories, and build something larger than ourselves.

Check it out, and/or buy a copy here.

We will also be presenting and discussing this piece in a panel at the upcoming NWSA (National Women’s Studies) Conference, November 11-14, in Denver.

Learn more about Ananya Dance Theatre here.

Calling up a Tsunami

My colleagues and I gave this presentation at a recent conference, and also at our faculty development day at MCTC. We’re going to continue taking it on the road, to get the word out.

— Shannon


MnCUEW (Minnesota Colleges and Universities English and Writing) Conference
April 3-4, 2009


Calling up a Tsunami: Arresting White Privilege with Critical Literacy and Arts Activism in the Basic Writing Classroom


Participants: Kathleen DeVore, Valerie Deus, and Shannon Gibney

Urban Basic Writing classrooms are increasingly predominantly students of color, while English faculties remain largely if not exclusively white.  This should serve to heighten our awareness of BW as work that does not address cognitive deficits, but cultural divides within Higher Ed. and the broader community.  Our work is not mere error correction to the standard, but cultural brokerage – making the cultures and genres valued in academic discourse intelligible to those coming from far outside that culture: usually people from across racial, ethnic, and class cultural divides from their BW teachers.


This panel of BW instructors from one urban Two Year College in a large Midwestern city have been exploring the use of critical literacy, which Shor defines as: “Critical literacy begins in questioning power relations, discourses, and identities in a world not yet finished, just, or humane” (What is Critical Literacy, 1999). Exposing some of the “power lines” in academic discourse allows us to work through with students the systemic privileging of dominant discourse, which they then can begin to strategically adopt, while continuing to hold tight to home discourses that have and will continue to sustain them. 


Despite a stated “commitment to diversity” and a student population that is nearly 50% students of color, our college (and arguably most colleges and universities in this country) operates within an unconscious middle-class and white bias. We are therefore interested in exploring the relationship between that unacknowledged bias and the disciplinary boundary in basic writing courses between “creative” or “personal” writing and more traditional composition. How does this boundary defeat the goals of critical literacy, which arguably begins when students are empowered to tell their own stories in their own creative and critical language?
Finally, it is growing clear to panel members that urban artists of color and arts activists more generally are central to this work — both in connecting to discourses already engaged in critical practices and in reaching into institutions much less racially and culturally homogeneous than higher education. In many communities color around the country – and certainly in the Twin Cities – arts are a primary vehicle for community building and social justice work. Our task as educators in the Basic Writing classroom therefore becomes about mobilizing that power both inside and beyond the classroom, so that students can tell the truth of their lives (and therefore, their community’s lives) through creative and critical language. In this way, linguistic skills/power cannot only describe students worlds, but can actually remake them. Panelists will explore their challenges and successes that we have had with this approach.


One sentence description: This session will explore strategies for engaging basic writing communities of color through critical literacy and arts activism.