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2013 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III

Feast or Famine: Production Work on the Margins

My fieldwork focuses on the experience of Production Workers in Toronto’s theatre, television and concert production industry. The rapid on-demand and flexible use of labour in the production industry is supplied by several staffing companies’ employment of casual labourers, a ready supply of on-call workers. My ethnographic research examines the experiences of workers who consider themselves freelance, self-employed entrepreneurs, who must rely on day-labouring and casual employment in order to meet their basic economic needs as they search for their next “gig”. These highly skilled workers shift between being employed and unemployed on a daily basis. The lack of job security, unpredictable work schedules, stagnating wages, workplace hazards and stresses take their toll. Inequities are reproduced both structurally by the industry and labour regulation in conjunction with workers own rationales, motivations, and interpretations of their positions. Through participant observation, formal and semi-structured interviews, and ongoing dialogues with several participants, my research has allowed me to gain insights into the inner workings of the industry as it relates to the role social networks, identity, gender, social/cultural capital and class play in reproducing economic inequities. This industry is a microcosm of economic restructuring and yet remains hidden from academic and public discourse. Methodological challenges, due to the shifting spatial and personal/professional hierarchies constantly in flux with each new production, will be highlighted. Ethical issues and safety concerns experienced during my study will emphasize the many health related and economic risks production workers face daily.

Presenter: Howard Steinberg (University of Guelph) -- steinbeh@uoguelph.ca
Topic: Anthropology, Development & Economics - Panel
Location: 11 Hartwell
Time: 1:45 pm (Session III)