Played by their own play: fission and fusion in British circuses

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This paper is based on fieldwork conducted in a British circus between 1975 and 1979.1 It focuses on the dynamics of the frequent disappearance and reappearance characteristic of travelling circus shows in Britain. It shows that these dynamics are to be understood in terms of circus economics, social and semiotic constraints. It argues that, understood in these terms, the appearance and disappearance of circuses should not be taken as unequivocally confirming the notion of circus decline or, on the contrary, as supporting the notions of circus continuity (see White, 1977; Bouissac, 1976: 4; George and Mulford, 1977). Rather, they are structural characteristics of circus marginality epitomizing both circus precariousness and its endurance within the general socio‐historical context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)744-774
Number of pages31
JournalSociological Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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