‘Work experience without qualities?’: A documentary and critical account of an internship

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Internships and unpaid work placements are today touted as necessary steps on the path towards gaining employment. They become increasingly normalised and recommended as an essential means of boosting the contemporary art-culture-service worker's chances of accumulating the given 'experience' valued by potential 'industry' employers. Yet, those who perform free labour, undertake work experience placements or internships are often omitted in discussions of conditions and struggles of workers. At a time of austerity measures, a reduction in higher education budgets and the prospect of an all‐encompassing ‘big society’, it is important to pay attention to all forms of free work and its outcomes. This paper attempts to contribute to these debates from the point of view of an intern. Having spent three months at a leading London cultural institution, I had an opportunity to experience first‐hand the conditions and obstacles faced on a daily basis by interns negotiating precarious (non‐) employment. This paper primarily takes the form of critical ethnographic account of the internal politics of an institution and my experiences there, relying upon a form of insider investigation, a participant observation in the anthropological sense.
ZeitschriftEphemera: Theory & Politics in Organization
Seiten (von - bis)33-52
Anzahl der Seiten20
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 01.02.2013