Time, Discipline and Subjectivity: Performing Arts Worker Mobilisations in Italy during the Pandemic


Based on the results of a qualitative study, this article aims to contribute to the debate on collective mobilisations, using the example of the labour struggles of Italian artists during the Covid-19 pandemic. The conditions typical to performing arts workers, such as precariousness, self-employment, individualisation, self-exploitation, social fragmentation, and geographical dispersion, have long been associated with low probabilities of collective mobilisation. In Italy, however, in the context of the numerous labour-related conflicts that emerged during the pandemic, mobilisations by performing arts workers were some of the most intense, widespread, and sustained. Addressing this counterintuitive finding and drawing on mobilisation theory, this article aims to identify the sources of conflict and antagonism of this mobilisation, and to investigate the factors and circumstances underlying it. We argue that the collective action of artists was motivated by a number of factors: a simultaneous mass experience of economic vulnerability and social insecurity; the breakdown of disciplinary mechanisms in artistic work; and the greater availability of “free time”. The findings shed new light on the mobilisation of precarious workers in work contexts characterised by disciplinary regimes based on subjective participation, self-exploitation and consensus.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v16i2p268

Keywords: mobilisation; pandemic; performing arts workers; subjectivisation; time; worker solidarity


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