POSTED: February 13, 2017

Theatre, Performance & Employment

Keynote by Prof Kate Oakley
Queen Mary, University of London | 23 February 2017

Co-Investigator Prof Kate Oakley to give the keynote presentation for the Theatre, Performance & Employment symposium to take place 23 – 24 February 2017 at Queen Mary University of London, bringing together scholars, artists, and activists from the theatre and performance industries.


Kathi Weeks’ argument about the reification and moralization of work was not made with cultural work specifically in mind, but it chimes with many of the critiques arising from critical cultural labour studies. Andrew Ross’ (2003) notion of the tradition of ‘sacrificial labour’ in the arts, draws on the idea that these workers by dint of education and socialisation in a system that stresses the importance of art as a vocation, are predisposed to accept nonmonetary rewards for their labour. Their willingness to self-exploit becomes exploitation of others in a labour market rife with inequality and poor working practices.

But Week’s argument that work has been de-politicized, in the arts or elsewhere, fails to capture what can reasonably be described as an upsurge in worker organisation and campaigning, particularly around issues of precarity. This paper addresses the question of cultural labour as form of sacrificial labour; but also looks at the re-birth of activism in this field. It considers it potential and limitations and asks what, as educators, our role is in this struggle.


Key areas the Theatre, Performance & Employment symposium seeks to address include performative representations of employment, the employment that defines the theatre and performance industries, and employability itself as a mode of performance. Theatre, Performance & Employment is providing a platform for conversations between researchers, workers, and employment rights campaigners to explore the sociological fact of employment, rather than questions of labour generally.

The event is free to attend, tickets can be booked via Eventbrite. For more idetails, please visit the conference website.

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