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Arts Without Boundaries: Value Problems in the Barbican Centre, London

Gibbin, Isobel; (2021) Arts Without Boundaries: Value Problems in the Barbican Centre, London. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis concerns the subject of value, and the role it plays in moral deliberation. It documents the experiences of Barbicanos, arts workers at the Barbican Centre in London, as they make decisions about the future of their institution. The Barbican has a longstanding association with artistic excellence and is one of the most influential arts organisations in the world. Its unique position as a funded department of the City of London Corporation grants Barbicanos a unusually high degree of creative control and the ability to ‘pursue values’ in their work. However, their often-stated belief that the arts should be an equalising social force is set at odds with their awareness of their profound inequalities. Drawing from the anthropology of value, this research situates their anxieties within the distinction between the value attached to material goods or ‘capital’ and the domain of moral virtue. The divide has proved especially problematic in the British arts sector, where it has been reinforced by controversial policymaking and widespread suspicion towards the politics of ‘liberal elites.’ Based on eighteen months’ ethnographic fieldwork with the Centre, this work describes Barbicanos’ attempts to intervene in this world of value/s by way of linguistic, material, and embodied forms. It highlights the importance of finding the right language to express values, with irony, sincerity, and reflexivity used to indicate sincere intentions. Alongside discursive forms of moral expression are the things we are less able to control: the unruliness of the material environment, of bodies, tastes and dispositions, and of our most enduring rituals. Developing the social study of the British middle class, this thesis offers an empathetic assessment of the possibilities and prohibitions of social change.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Arts Without Boundaries: Value Problems in the Barbican Centre, London
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10126458
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