Forgotten Cosmopolitans: The Diverging Fates of Europe’s Circus People in the Wake of WWII

The aim of this project is to collaborate with members of the circus community to achieve new knowledge about the impact of Second World War – the political climate leading to the war, the war itself and its aftermath – on the fates of Europe’s circus people.

These people, who not only pursued an itinerant way of life but were also often members of a minority group, constantly experienced exclusion and racism and were subjected to various forms of oppression by the majority population, including state authorities. Nonetheless, Circus people often showcased social and ethnic diversity. The project intends to gain new insights through an involvement with this community in four subprojects, which are expected to enable entries into a broad spectrum of circus people’s experiences. In partnership with community members, the project will:

  1. in partnership with community members conduct research and create a website where the results will be displayed; 
  2. develop and perform a research-based performance act together with the Finnish circus artist Pauliina Räsänen and a youth theatre group in Joutsa;
  3. organise an international teacher training seminar in Eisenstadt, Austria, with members of the circus community as speakers; and 
  4. at its culmination, produce a concluding exhibition involving a participatory method at the Museum Europäischer Kulturen (MEK)

Project coordination: Centre for Nordic Studies at the University of Helsinki
Project duration: 1 January 2019 to 30 April 2020