JHI Circle of Fellows Spotlight—Madison Trusolino

February 8, 2023 by Sonja Johnston

Madison Trusolino is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. Her SSHRC-funded dissertation is on women and LGBTQ+comedians’ experiences of work and resistance in the Toronto comedy scene. She joins the JHI in 2022-23 as one of our Chancellor Jackman Graduate Fellows.

JHI: What are your main research interests?

MT: My research looks at labour and community organizing in the precarious arts and culture industries. Specifically, I’m interested in how marginalized creatives experience both work and resistance. I approach this research through a feminist political economic lens that considers the structure of corporate and governmental institutions, while also fore fronting the agency of women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ workers. I’m interested in the interplay of formal and alternative forms of labour organizing that can range from unions to whisper networks to Facebook groups.

JHI: What project(s) are you working on at the JHI and why did you choose it (them)?

MT: I am currently completing my doctoral dissertation, Punching Up: Women & LGBTQ+ Comedians’ Experiences of Work and Resistance in Toronto’s Comedy Scene, which examines the experiences of women and LGBTQ+ comedians in the Canadian comedy industry, which is dominated by cisgender, straight, white men. Based on qualitative interviews with 20 Toronto-based women and LGBTQ+ comedians and a study of the dynamics of comedy creation at different scales of production, I build a theoretical framework of resistance attending to workers’ formal and informal acts of resistance in comedy and the cultural industries generally. I argue that by broadening our conception of worker’s resistance from the margins, we gain a better understanding of workplace organizing under increasingly precarious conditions for marginalized cultural workers.

JHI: What are you hoping to experience as a JHI Fellow? What have you enjoyed the most so far?

MT: As a JHI fellow I have experienced a sense of community that is sometimes difficult to find in a large university. Being able to have informal discussions over coffee with scholars from all different disciplines has been incredibly illuminating. Because we are a group at different stages in our careers, from undergraduates to doctoral students to professors, there is a “pay it forward” mentality where we all work to help and mentor one another. I am also indebted to the staff at the JHI who have been exceptionally accommodating and are dedicated to making sure we have all the resources we need to succeed.

JHI: Share something you read/watched/listened to recently that you enjoyed/were inspired by

MT: I saw Laura Poitras’ documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed about the artist Nan Goldin and her activism during the AIDS epidemic and now the opioid crisis, at TIFF. It was inspiring to see how Goldin and other artists/activists use their creative work to fight inequities in cultural institutions and how that impact reverberates outside of them.

That being said, my biggest comfort is reading historical romance novels which I take out by the stack from the Toronto Public Library. It’s all about balance.

JHI: What is a fun fact about you?

MT: I’ve volunteered in cat rescue for over 6 years. I’m taking a break from it while I finish my dissertation, but animal rescue is one of my biggest passions. Amongst my many roles, I’ve worked as a cat caretaker, foster coordinator, post adoption support person and I even co-produced a cat-themed comedy show fundraiser.