Shaun Terry


AA Durham Technical Community College (2016)

BA University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Cultural Studies (2018)

MA New York University in Media, Culture, and Communication (in process)


I hail from Killeen, Texas—a small, conservative army community. I am the oldest of seven biracial children (yes, we grew up Catholic). I began my academic journey thinking that I would conduct a Texan high school choir, but that didn’t materialize before I left school to work mostly in call centers and food and beverage service.

After the birth of my daughter, Jovie, I moved to North Carolina. Thinking that I would work in public policy as an economist, I decided to return to school. I quickly lost faith in the usefulness of liberal economics, so I decided to pursue my Bachelor’s degree in cultural studies. I was drawn to cultural studies; my research increasingly convinced me that the proper arena for contesting prevailing thought and prevailing material outcomes was in the space of social discourse and social practice.

Research Interests

Today, I am interested in that which is shared—not just by people, but by everything. It seems to me that everything is vulnerable to everything else, and everyone is vulnerable to everyone else. The mere existence of anything does at least a bit of what we might call “violence” to that which surrounds it. That said, loss can always set conditions for possible benefit. For example, being in the presence of another person always means that one can behave in some ways but cannot behave in other ways, but at the same time that this person’s presence sets limits on our behavior, it also presents exciting potentials.

Even the most powerful people—those whose capacities, for whatever reason, are greatest—are vulnerable to people who possess less power. The vulnerability of the powerful can appear most obvious when they have to interact with the least powerful people. Powerful people’s vulnerability can sometimes lead to them behaving in strange, unpredictable, and/or problematic ways. The vulnerability of the powerful also can impede the outcomes that the less powerful desire. Our well-reasoned response can appear as a conundrum: How can we convince the powerful to willingly give up some power?

This presents a somewhat related problem. Much of contemporary politics takes the form of refiguring symbols, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to changes in what we might think of as clearly material practices. How do we engage in politics—by which our minds, emotions, relations, and clearly embodied acts—change in ways that reflect and help to (re)produce more people’s greater liberation? Rituals appear between purely symbolic and purely material practices. Perhaps rethinking contemporary rituals, and how we might refigure those rituals toward new political ends, can lead to improved political outcomes.

I’m particularly interested in meta ethics, critical theory, religious studies, political economy, semiotics, digital studies, decolonial studies, social movements, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, and Achille Mbembe.