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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Piyusha Chatterjee, Individualized Program

We have always been here: Busking, urban space and the economy of Montreal

Date & time
Wednesday, August 24, 2022 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


An oral history project, it engages with memories of busking and formal and informal archives to address the lived experiences of buskers in the contemporary city; transformations in spaces of busking and their position with relation to the city's economy; contestations over urban public space; and the neoliberal entanglements of Montreal's economy. The busker's life histories are privileged in exploring concepts such as flexible, immaterial and precarious labour. The thesis, therefore, decenters the creative class in examining the entrepreneurial and self-regulated worker and the nature of labour intermediaries within the neoliberal economy. It shines a light on the role of surveillance and politics of access that are deepening social divides in this new economy. It also compares the historical representation of street musicians and performers to their own perceptions of busking. In doing so, it not only challenges the distinctions between work and leisure, but also between economic and cultural or social domains.

The thesis foregrounds a temporal and spatial claim on the city by buskers. It is an argument for their place and practice in urban space and economy. Implicit is also a critique of urban planning and policies that are producing a sense of displacement among the economically and socially marginalised. Experiences of surveillance and power, institutionalisation of culture, and professionalization of public art within the cultural economy make visible the exclusionary landscapes of the postindustrial city. Finally, in centering informality and informal spaces of work and sociality through buskers, the thesis unsettles dominant narratives of Montreal to challenge a dichotomous framing of the world.

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