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Unpaid work and internships within the cultural and creative sectors: Policy, popular culture, and resistance

Figiel, Joanna (2018). Unpaid work and internships within the cultural and creative sectors: Policy, popular culture, and resistance. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


My thesis explores the interconnected issues surrounding unpaid labour, internships, and work placements within the creative and cultural sectors in order to show how the figure of the intern materialises across multiple sites and through various discourses. I extend the existing scholarship by examining how ideas about unpaid work and internships have emerged and mutated over the past decade in media, policy, and activist discourses. I examine the ways in which policy literature in the UK has dealt with the subject of internships over this same period and analyse how the question of internships is concretised in policy discourses. Following this, I undertake a close reading of the ways in which the figure of the intern is depicted in popular culture. Drawing on these insights, I locate the links between issues of gender, internships and unpaid work in the creative and arts sector and evaluate activist strategies to respond to these problems, engaging with my own experiences in the UK and in Poland. Altogether, my thesis demonstrates the variety of ways in which unpaid work and internships have become steadily normalised across the past decade or so, including by being rendered respectable as ‘educational’ or ‘training’ opportunities, and through their cooperation with highly gendered ideas of affective and creative labour. By analysing the research and activist efforts undertaken in response to this phenomenon, I outline a set of strategies for urgently required intervention against the exploitation and inequalities built into these burgeoning forms of work.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
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