D. Soyini Madison Alumnae Dissertation Fellow, 1987
D. Soyini Madison focuses on the intersections of labor activism, political economy of human rights, and indigenous performance tactics. Her book, Acts of Activism: Human Rights and Radical Performance (Cambridge), 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 adapts and directs her ethnographic data for the public stage. Her most recent production, Labor Rites, is a mosaic of the USA labor movement and how human labor is variously enacted, valued, and contested. Madison’s other staged work includes: I Have My Story to Tell, an oral history performance of University of North Carolina laborers and service workers; Mandela, the Land, and the People, 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 gendered poverty in West Africa; 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 in the Global South. Madison is the author of five books: The Woman That I Am (St. Martin’s P.); Critical Ethnography: Method, Ethics, and Performance (Sage Pub.); The Performance Studies Handbook, Co-Edited with Judith Hamera (Sage Pub.) Acts of Activism (Cambridge Univ.P.) Madison’s most recent book, African Dress: Fashion, Agency, and Performance, co-edited with Karen Tranberg Hansen represents meditations on the meanings of the dressed body in specific sites throughout Africa and the Black Diaspora (Berg Pub.). Professor Madison is the recipient of many awards including the National Communication Association Lila A. Heston Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Interpretation and Performance as well as the Leslie Irene Coger Award for Distinguished Performance.
Reflection on the Alumnae Fellowship: Receiving the Dissertation Fellowship, during my PhD studies, was a gift of confidence and inspiration at a very difficult time of family loss and challenging motherly responsibilities. The Fellowship came when I needed to be reminded that my time, energy, concentration and scholarly work were appreciated and honored. The Fellowship was further evidence that I had chosen a University with a legacy that genuinely values its students with generous support as they envision their futures. To know the Dissertation Fellowship was given on behalf of the Alumnae made it even more significant, because it is a testament to the commitment and continuity of those who, after leaving the university, still cherish Northwestern as meaningful and significant to their lives and to the successes they have achieved. I am now a tenured professor in the department where I was once a graduate student. Receiving the Dissertation Fellowship is a memory I hold dear as motivation on my path toward completing my degree and joining the esteemed ranks of Northwestern alumnae.