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Honor Ford-Smith

Honor Ford-Smith

Associate Professor


PhD Education, University of Toronto
MA Adult Education, University of Toronto
BA Theatre and English, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Research Keywords

Performance & Social Movements; Race, Gender, Nation & Colonialism & Post-Colonialism; Caribbean Societies & Their Diasporas; Community & Environmental Arts & Education.

Honor Ford-Smith

Contact Information

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3

416 736 2100

Research Interests

I work at the crossroads of performance, art, politics and environmental justice.  I explore how performance creates spaces where what Toni Morrisson called “discredited knowledges” can emerge and engage critically with power and politics in a quest for radical social and environmental justice.  In my research-creation practice, I make collaborative and community-based performances drawing on oral history, testimony, dialogue, ceremonial, spatial and symbolic action and social memory. I often integrate this with activist organization. One goal of my scholarship is to work “contrapuntally” - that is to embrace the challenge of listening and engaging in dialogue across hierarchies of difference, without suppressing difference, while at the same time questioning structures of domination and coercion. 

All my projects are rooted in the global Caribbean, the Black diaspora and/or in the wider Global South and they draw on a tradition of radical Caribbean anticolonial, transnational feminist thought and performance theory.  Arising from this, my research and writings traverse a range of themes:  decolonizing arts education; Caribbean feminist organization and education; performance, decolonization and social movements; memory, violence and community activism, oral histories of diasporic food production and consumption as a practice of resistance to cultural assimilation. 

Currently, I teach an undergraduate course called Artists and Writers who Change the World: Introduction to Environmental Arts and Humanities. At the graduate level, I teach a Cultural Production workshop in Performance in which graduate students create and reflect on their own performances through the lens of decolonization. I also teach an introductory graduate seminar on Research in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Research Projects

Oral History, Music Making and Food Justice, 2021- ongoing. Funding: Carswell Family Foundation

This community-based project will create a socially engaged music curriculum that shares local oral histories of transnational food cultures through intergenerational music-making in the service of urban food justice.

Taking Liberty: Decolonization, performance 2018 – ongoing.   Funding: Brown University, York University and the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto

Taking Liberty researches contemporary and historic struggles for decolonization and social movements in the Global Caribbean through the lens of performance and theatre. It also places younger activists and artists in conversation with radical elders. #Taking Liberty@emancipatingnow

Memory, Urban Violence and Performance in Jamaican Communities 2007-15. Funding: Social Sciences & Humanities Research Foundation

How, we ask, do survivors of violence from different and social and spatial locations in Jamaican communities mourn, remember and forget the losses inflicted by state violence and by the violence of armed strongmen? We search for answers to this question in public acts such as: protests against police violence, vigils, elite social spectacles, dance and drama and we share our findings through a series of shifting participatory performances.

Past Projects:

Collaborator, SSHRC, Partnership grant, Art for Social Change: A research partnership in Teaching, Evaluation and Capacity Building. ($2.5m over 5 years) Principal Researcher: Judith Marcuse.

Collaborator, SSHRC, Partnership grant Canadian Consortium for Performance and Politics in the Americas.  ($2.7m. over 7 years).  Principal Researcher: Peter Kulchyski, Native Studies, University of Manitoba.

Collaborator, SSHRC, Partnership Development Grant, Youth and community development in Canada and Jamaica: A transnational approach to youth violence. ($174,053). Principal Investigator: Andrea Davis, CERLAC, York University.

Research Output

“Enduring as Stones: Performing Memories of Violence” in Parallax special issue: Performing futures in the African Diaspora: Time, Ritual, Ceremony. Forthcoming 2022.

“Justice as a Labour of Care.” Special Issue of Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International, forthcoming, Spring/Summer 2022.

 “The Body and Performance in 1970s Jamaica: Toward a Decolonial Cultural Method.” Small Axe, vol 23 no 1, 2019 pp 150-168.

“Performing Queer Marronage: The work of d’bi young anitafika.” In Q2Q: Queer Canadian Performance Texts. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press. 2018 239-243.

 “The Ghost of Mikey Smith: Space, Performance and Justice”.  In Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 63. Issues 2-3. 2017. 271 -290.

“Gone but not forgotten: Vigils, murals and the politics of popular commemoration in Jamaica.” At the Limits of Justice: Women of Colour respond to Terror. Ed. Suvendrini Perera, and Sherene Razack.  Toronto, University of Toronto Press. 2014. 263-288.

“Whose Community?  Whose Art?  The Politics of Reformulating Community Art in Canada.”  In Community engaged theatre and performance (1st ed.)Playwrights Canada Press. Ed.  Julie Salverson. 2011. 84-100.

"Ring Ding in a Tight Corner:  Sistren, Collective Democracy and the Organization of Cultural Production". (Abridged version of mononograph) Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures. Ed. M. Jaqui Alexander and Chandra Mohanty. New York: Routledge: 213-258.


Jamaican plays: A postcolonial anthology 1977-1987.  Kingston, Jamaica: Paul Issa Publications. (Editor) 2011. 

Lionheart Gal: Life-Stories of Jamaican Women* (with the Sistren Theatre Collective), Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press (including a new afterword); originally published 1986/87 London, England: Women's Press, and Sister Vision Press, Toronto.  (Editor and co-author) 2005.

Recognition & Awards

  • Otto Rene Castillo Award for Poltiical Theatre to Sistren (Sisters) Theatre Collective, Jamaica
  • Best Film/Video Documentary Production, XXII, Black International Cinema for Honor Bound directed by Jay Prychidny, Toronto, Canada: Leda Serene