Keywords: Contemporary Circus; Field; Position Taking; Community of Practice; Ethnography.
This paper outlines an overview of circus in Italy. It is underpinned by an explorative research on the recent reinvention of circus as «contemporary circus », based mainly on ethnographic exploration of the circus scene in Turin, the capital of contemporary circus in Italy. The study highlights visions and constructions of a new circus field based on meanings and representations which circulate among circus practitioners at different levels and current processes of institutionalisation. Following Bourdieu (1993), the article shows how heteronomous principles determine both the circus «field of positions» - in which criteria regulating recent cultural policies prevail - and the circus field of «position taking» - as the strong influence of the field of sport on amateur circus organisations highlights. Bourdieu's view highlights how the multiplicity and complexity of these processes delineate the circus field of position taking as a unit of analysis rather than a defined system, and as the result of permanent conflict rather than an intentional search for coherence and consensus. After analysing this structural aspect connected to the construction of the new field of contemporary circus, the paper defines notions of contemporary circus, drawing on everyday practices and interactions within the circus «community of practice» (Wenger 2010; Paechter 2003).