Over the past decade in Canada, student work has become a topic of public criticism, legal action, academic research, and labour activism. Cultural industry employers’ use of unpaid, low-paid, and flexibilized labour in the form of internships and other kinds of ‘work experience’ raises questions about the future of work in already precarious fields such as news production, advertising, television, and film. Against the backdrop of neoliberal processes still shaping universities and labour markets, the student worker emerges as a strategic figure in the contested politics of cultural work. This thesis offers a theoretical and empirical investigation of the dominant discourse and counter-discourse through which work experience is constructed, legitimized, critiqued, and re-visioned. Drawing on autonomist Marxist theory, critical philosophies of education, and feminist political economy, I situate cultural work experience as a discursive site where struggles over knowledge production and labour rights become visible and urgent.
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Thesis advisor: Brophy, Enda
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