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Who cares? At what price? The hidden costs of socially engaged arts labour and the moral failure of cultural policy

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journal contribution
posted on 04.12.2020, 08:55 by Ele BelfioreEle Belfiore
In the broader context of research into cultural labour, this article focuses analytical attention on working conditions within socially engaged arts practice, which have been under-researched to date. In particular, the article aims to uncover the unacknowledged costs shouldered by socially engaged practitioners working on publicly subsidised participatory projects. On the basis of the analysis of qualitative interviews with socially engaged artists and creative professionals, the paper calls for an explicit effort to bring our public cultural institutions to task in relation to what Mark Banks (2017) calls ‘creative justice’. This entails highlighting the mechanisms of systemic exploitation of artists within current funding practices, and the ways in which project-based funding rarely incorporates, as a matter of course, provisions to ensure the fulfilment of duties of care towards both artists and participating communities. The article draws on feminist ethics of care to advance a first intervention towards developing fresh thinking on the moral economy of the subsidised arts sector; it does this starting from an acknowledgement that the normative environments of contemporary arts funding point to a clear moral failure of cultural policy.


The politics of cultural value: Towards an emancipatory framework

Arts and Humanities Research Council

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  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • Communication and Media

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European Journal of Cultural Studies


SAGE Publications


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This is an Open Access Article. It is published by Sage under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported Licence (CC BY). Full details of this licence are available at:

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Prof Ele Belfiore. Deposit date: 3 December 2020