D. Soyini Madison

  • Professor, Performance Studies, School of Communication
  • Affiliate Faculty, African American Studies and Department of Anthropology, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences

D. Soyini Madison focuses on the intersections of local activism, the political economy of human rights, and indigenous performance tactics. Her latest book, Acts of Activism: Human Rights and Radical Performance, is based on how local activists in Ghana, West Africa employ modes of performance, as tactical interventions, in their day-to-day struggles for women’s rights, water democracy, and economic justice. Madison is interested in how applying a performance analytic, to local and public acts of activism, generates a poetics of understanding and an embodied epistemology concerning how activism is constituted, its dimensions of imagination and creativity, and its rhetoric and politics.

In Madison’s research and applied work on indigenous activism in South-Saharan Africa, she also teaches and writes extensively on “critical performance ethnography.” By combining conventional ethnography with performance theory as well as an explicitly critical and rhetorical purpose, Madison translates and directs her ethnographic data for the public stage. It is through the public staging of ethnographic data where principles of advocacy, publicity, and ethics are further examined in her published work. Madison’s staged work includes: I Have My Story to Tell, a performance reflecting the oral histories of University of Carolina laborers and service workers; Mandela, the Land, and the People, a performance based on the life and work of Nelson Mandela; Is It a Human Being or A Girl? a performance ethnography on traditional religion, modernity, and a political economy women’s poverty; and, Water Rites a multi-media performance on the privatization of public water and the struggle for clean and accessible water as a human right.

Madison’s current research examines the performance tactics of particular transnational, labor Union movements, within the black Diaspora, and the oral histories of Union leadership that reflect specific public demonstrations of labor justice and disputes. Black Diaspora labor movements will include Great Britain, Kenya, South Africa, and the United States.

Professor Madison has won numerous honors and awards, including the Tanner University Award at Chapel Hill for “Outstanding and Inspirational Teaching,” the National Communication Association, “Spotlight on Scholars,” The J. William Fulbright Senior Scholar Award, The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Research Award.