Profile: Gabrielle Civil

Gabrielle Civil is an American performance artist, poet, and educator.

Background and education

Civil is originally from Detroit, Michigan. From 1991 to 1995 she attended the University of Michigan, from where she graduated with high honors in both Creative writing and Comparative Literature. Later Civil attended New York University for both her master’s and her doctorate. She received her M.A. in comparative literature in 2000. Her dissertation, From Body to Nation: Reading Black Women’s Poetry in the United States, Haiti & Canada, focused on the poetry of black women in the United States, Canada and Haiti. Civil’s concentrations included Black Feminist Theory; African-American Literature; Experimental World Poetry.


Civil started her teaching career teaching summers at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, in New York. She taught “strategies for embodied knowledge” through Language & Thinking 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006. Following her summers at Bard College, Civil taught “Women and Voice: Black Women and Performance” at Macalester College from 2005 to the winter of 2006. She then returned to Bard College, and taught for the Bard College Prison Initiative, “Language & Thinking, Eastern Maximum Security Correctional Facility,” the summer of 2011. She taught at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, from 2000 to 2013 as a tenured professor in English, Women’s studies, and Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity. From 2013 to 2016, she was a tenured associate professor of performance at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She currently teaches as guest faculty in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.


Civil identifies as a black, feminist artist whose aim is “to open up space”. She works solo and collaboratively and has premiered more than 40 performances in North America and abroad.

In Performance Art: Futurism to the Present, RoseLee Goldberg analyzes performance art and its significance to the developments made in modern art. She acknowledges that no definition can be encompassing of performance art if it were to be specific. “Performance has been considered as a way of bringing to life the many formal and conceptual ideas on which the making of art is based.” There is a significance within current society to performance art and the cultural impact it has and how culture impacts the arts. “This latest account describes the huge increase in the number of twenty-first-century artists around the globe turning to performance as a medium for articulating ‘difference’—of their own cultures and ethnicities—and for entering the larger discourse of international culture in our highly mediated times.”