GerShun Avilez

Phone:   919-962-4024
Office:   Greenlaw 517
Curriculum Vitae:   PDF icon Avilez CV 2017.pdf
Hire Date:   2 013


Associate Professor

Director, UNC Program in Sexuality Studies

Affiliate Faculty, Institute of African American Research and Department of Women's & Gender Studies


Ph.D. in English, University of Pennsylvania (2009)

*Graduate Certificate, Africana Studies (2007)


GerShun Avilez received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also earned a Graduate Certificate in Africana Studies.  He has taught at Yale University and held the Frederick Douglass Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Rochester.  He is a cultural studies scholar who specializes in contemporary African American literature and visual culture and 20th century American literature in general.  His teaching extends to the literature of the Black Diaspora.  Much of his scholarship explores how questions of gender and sexuality inform artistic production.  He also works in the fields of political radicalism, spatial theory, and legal studies.  Throughout his work and teaching, he is committed to studying a wide variety of art forms, including, drama, fiction, non-fiction, film, poetry, visual and performance art, ethnography, and comic books.


His book Radical Aesthetics & Modern Black Nationalism (Illinois) appeared in 2016 as a part of “The New Black Studies” Series.  The book investigates how Black nationalist rhetoric impacted African American artistic experimentation in the late 20th and 21st centuries through an examination of drama, novels, poetry film, and visual art.  Radical Aesthetics won the 2017 William Sanders Scarborough Prize from the Modern Language Association (MLA).  The prize is given to an outstanding scholarly study of African American literature or culture.  


He is at work on two new book projects.  He is completing an interdisciplinary book-length project on questions of space in Black Diasporic art and social history and beginning work on a cultural history of Black artistic collectives.  During Spring 2018, he held a fellowship at the Institute for the Arts & Humanities to help him finish the book on Black Diasporic artists and space.  


During Fall 2015, he was the UNC Arts @ The Core Curatorial Fellow.  As a fellow, he selected a series of 2 performances on civil rights for Carolina Performing Arts that premiered during the 2016-17 school year: Labels (November 2016) and Bayou Blues (February 2017). 

He serves on the editorial board of the journals American Literature and Ethos: A Digital Review of Arts, Humanities & Public Ethics (  


Recent & Upcoming Talks/Presentations:

October 31, 2018: University of Pennsylvania, Book Discussion: Radical Aesthetics and Modern Black Nationalism

October 16, 2018: Cornell University, "Fugitive Movement"

September 25: 2018: Carolina Public Humanities "Great Books" Discussion of Nella Larsen's Passing [Featured Scholar-Discussant] 

September 12, 2018: UNC-Chapel Hill, Communications Department Colloquium, Black Queer Performance

March 15, 2018: Imagining the Raced Space of Freedom: Symposium in Honor of Thadious M. Davis, University of Pennsylvania [Invited Panelist]

November 10, 2017: American Studies Association, Roundtable: "Visual Ecologies of American Urban Experience" 

October 27, 2017: "The Arts of the Present" Conference, Roundtable: "Coloring Queer Theory/Queering Critical Race Studies" (Oakland, CA) 

October 18, 2017: Hendrix College, "Cloak & Dagger Civil Rights: Art, Legislation, & Revolutionary Politics"

April 10, 2017: Princeton University, "Movement in Black: Civil Rights Legislation and the Desire for Spatial Justice"


Selected Publications:

-Radical Aesthetics and Modern Black Nationalism (Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2016).

-“Amiri Baraka.” In Oxford Bibliographies in African American Studies. Ed. Gene Andrew Jarrett.  New York: Oxford UP. 2018.

-“Staging Social Death: Alienation and Embodiment in Aishah Rahman’s Unfinished Women in The Psychic Hold of Slavery: Legacies in American Culture, eds. Soyica Diggs Colbert, Robert Patterson, and Aida Levy-Hussen (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2016, 107-24.

-Book Review: Woubshet, Dagmawi. The Calendar of Loss: Race, Sexuality, and Mourning in the Early AIDS Era. Literature and History 25.1 (2016): 112-114.

-"The Black Arts Movement." The Cambridge Companion to Literature of American Civil Rights.  Ed. Julie Armstrong.  New York: Cambridge UP, 2015. 49-64. 

"Queer Forms, Black Lives: Melvin Dixon, Assotto Saint and Artistic Experimentation." Black Gay Genius. Eds. Steven Fulwood and Charles Stephens. New York: Vintage Entity, 2014. 165-71.

-"The Aesthetics of Terror: Constructing 'Felt Threat' in Those Bones are Not My Child and Leaving Atlanta."  Obsidian: Literature of the African Diaspora. Special Issue: Violence & Black Youth in Post-Civil Rights U.S. 13.2 (2014). 12-27.

-“African American Writing Until 1930.”  The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature.  Ed. Mikko Tuhkanen and Ellen McCallum.  New York: Cambridge UP, 2014. 305-322.

-"Cartographies of Desire: Mapping Queer Space in the Fiction of Samuel Delany and Darieck Scott."  Callaloo 34.1 (2011): 128-42.

-“Housing the Black Body: Value, Domestic Space, and African-American Segregation Narratives.”  African American Review 42.1 (Spring 2008): 135-47.  Reprinted in: Representing Segregation: Toward an Aesthetics of Living Jim Crow and Other Forms of Racial Division.  Ed. Piper Kendrix Williams and Brian Norman.  Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 2010.  131-47.


Courses Taught:

English 89: Black Masculinity & Femininity 

English 122: Intro to American Literature

English 129: Literature & Cultural Diversity

English 345: 20th Century American Literature 

English 354/Public Policy 354: The Lived Experience of Inequality (Fall 2018)

English 369: Contemporary African American Literature & Culture

English 370: Race, Health & Narrative 

English 466: Art & Social Radicalism 

English 763: Intro to Literature, Medicine & Culture (Fall 2018)

English 871: Theorizing Radicalism: Race, Sex, & Performance 

English 872: Seminar in African American and Black Diasporic Literature

Teaching Awards

Poorvu Award for Interdisciplinary Teaching, 2011 (Yale University)