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Street Performers

Project by Jeanne Labigne (Doctoral Candidate)

Mobile work-life arrangements of contemporary street performers in Europe

street performers

Photo: Jeanne Labigne


My dissertation project explores mobile work-life arrangements of contemporary street performers from an ethnographic, historical and theoretical perspective. Building on a mobile and multi-local ethnography in Western and Central Europe, the study gives an insight into the work and everyday life in the field of street performance/street arts, defined as performing arts and entertainment in public spaces. Alongside the ethnographic material and additional research on the history of professionalization of the past 40 years – during which street arts in Europe have developed from an activist and artistic social movement towards a professional performing arts sector – my study sheds light on a new internationalized, highly mobile working culture, which is marked by blurred work-life boundaries, and is situated between counter culture and cultural economy. Grounded in empirical insights, I apply a broad understanding of work, explicitly including formal artistic labor as well as the informal economic strategy of busking.

My project is situated at the interface of the academic fields of Work and Labour Studies, Mobility Studies and Cultural Theory. Adding the case of street performance to recent theoretical debates in these fields, my project discusses ambivalent emancipative or imperative meanings of mobility in the context of processes of social and cultural transformation.

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