Singing for Our Supper: Performative Advocacy in Canadian Art Worlds

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Gasoi, Lowell Alexander




This dissertation examines aspects of artistic production and its relation to cultural policy by focusing on the dynamic performances and dispositions of artists and cultural bureaucrats as they communicate and demonstrate legitimacy through the process of advocacy. I argue for a concept of performative advocacy, a means to consider how, where, and when artists are displaying that legitimacy in relation to governmental agencies, professional and educational organizations, and the larger institution of arts funding and production in some parts of Canada. Using an institutional ethnographic approach, this study embraces the actions of individual artists and small collectives, particularly those considered in the "emerging" stage of their career, to consider how their actions are coordinated by these institutions and the texts they produce. From students in a suburban theatre training program, to a gathering of artists in Ottawa for Arts Day on the Hill, to program officers at the Canada Council itself, this research reflects on how these artists and arts bureaucrats negotiate their performances as advocates. Performative advocacy helps us to build a better art world through a more grounded understanding of what it is these individuals do as they relate to one another and the larger institution of arts funding supported by the government. By studying the presence of these actors, we can put cultural policy studies into conversation with our understanding of the work of arts practitioners while avoiding the problematic construction of the artistic identity. In this way, I offer a language of theatricality that aids in the understanding of what artists do, on a day-to-day basis, to advocate for their work, allowing policymakers, artists themselves, and the public to better listen and act in the interests of a robust art world.


Speech Communication
Sociology - Theory and Methods
Rhetoric and Composition




Carleton University

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