Traveling and family in the 1970s British circus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Based on fieldwork carried out between 1975 and 1979, it was discovered that most of the circus performers were living and performing as families and many had traced their origins to circus families. The traveling conditions and relative isolation account for this family basis, as do the circus' labor-intensive economy (only an entire family's labor can provide for its needs), as well as the reproduction of its labor as the main source of the parents' long term security. The public expects to see a 'family' in an esoteric traveling show and the performing family strengthens its bonds through building the act in its own image. The performing family is there as through its 'family' performance, and invoking the audience's nostalgia, it perpetuates itself as well as the condition of social (and ontological) isolation in which the family-based circus emerged. The family, embodying 'family' among the circus performers, is not only a mode of economic survival, but a mode of being out of social time and out of relations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-385
Number of pages17
StatePublished - 2007


  • Family
  • Intensive labor
  • Modernity
  • Objectification
  • Performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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