Acts of Activism: Human Rights as Radical Performance
Book: Acts of Activism: Human Rights as Radical Performance
Written by: D. Soyini Madison
Published by: Cambridge University Press, 2010
In Acts of Activism: Human Rights as Radical Performance, Madison “addresses the relationship between performance and local activism in the service of human rights and social justice.” (p.1). Madison studies how activists employ performance as a means of communication, intervention, and subversion for a more humane and democratic society in the context of Ghana and the United States. The author analyzes performance as tactics, emergence, advocacy, and ethics. Public meetings, strikes, and stage/street performances become tactics and emergence while advocacy and ethics address the question, “what do I do now?” with regard to self-reflection and positionality in the field.
The book is divided into three ‘acts of activism’ (Act I, staged in Ghana; Act II, staged in the United States; Act III comprises the oral history performances of Ghanaians directing street performances and Theatre for Development) which present three illustrations of actions that generate activism in relation to human rights and social justice. In Act I, based on a specific cultural practice involving women and girls sent to religious shrines in reparation for crimes committed by members of their family and community, Madison discusses her experience of a public performance (directed by herself) in Ghana. Act II talks about the collaborative performance in the United States based on the political economy of water, and the water activists working against the corporate privatization of public water. Act III focuses on oral history and street performance in the presentation of three Ghanaian women who employed performance as a means of advancing human rights and the well-being of women and children.
“Performance and activism are mutually constitutive because performance demands that we pay attention to the deep particularities of human action. A performance analytic requires that we attend to the layers of contexts and motivating factors that generate acts of activism.” (p.225)