Art, Labour and Inequality: Interdisciplinary perspectives

Session Convenors:

Dave O’Brien (University of Edinburgh)

Harry Weeks (Newcastle University)

Please email your paper proposal to the session convenors using the Paper Proposal Form


Art history and art theory have become increasingly attendant to the field of art’s status as a site of labour in recent years. Julia Bryan-Wilson and Angela Dimitrakaki have sought to reconfigure the artist as ‘art worker’, while Gregory Sholette and Hito Steyerl have shed light on the unpaid ‘dark matter’ underpinning art’s economies. Parallel to this, cultural sociologists (Pascal Gielen, Angela McRobbie) have turned towards the labour of the art field as a means of unpicking the entrenched inequalities (gender, race, class) of the cultural sector, and how these might impact upon cultural and social reproduction more broadly. The 2018 ‘Panic!’ Report into cultural inequality has gained substantial traction in the museums and galleries sector, but has yet to significantly feed into art-historical and art-theoretical discussions.

In the spirit of interdisciplinary exchange, this session seeks to bring these two discourses into conversation, asking what they might learn from one another. We ask how the conjunction of sociological, historical and theoretical methodologies might serve both to enhance understandings of artistic labour, and to materially impact upon labour inequalities in the field of art. We welcome contributions from across the various disciplines concerned with artistic labour and inequality, as well as with adjacent issues including decolonisation, institutional critique and gentrification. Papers that deal with interdisciplinary conversations directly are particularly welcomed, however, we also see the panel as a whole as a moment of productive interdisciplinary dialogue. The session organisers are in conversation with Palgrave’s ‘Sociology of the Arts’ series regarding publication.

Submit a paper

Please email your paper proposals direct to the session convenors above, using the Paper Proposal Form

You need to provide a title and abstract (250 words maximum) for a 25-minute paper (unless otherwise specified), your name and institutional affiliation (if any).

Please make sure the title is concise and reflects the contents of the paper because the title is what appears online, in social media and in the printed programme.

You should receive an acknowledgement receipt of your submission within two weeks from the session convenors.

Deadline for submissions: Monday 21 October 2019

BACK TO 2020 Annual Conference