Politicizing Creative Economy: Activism and a Hunger Called Theater
Book: Politicizing Creative Economy: Activism and a Hunger Called Theater
Written by: Dia Da Costa
Published by: University of Illinois Press, 2016
Dia Da Costa’s book ‘Politicizing Creative Economy’ critically analyses an increasingly powerful global discourse by asking how and why the “creative economy” gains traction in a given context. Costa rethinks the discourse of the creative economy by examining its evolution in postcolonial India, where a Hindu cultural nationalism has embraced the power of the arts in order to revitalize urban living. Her book offers a critical ethnographic analysis of two theatre groups — Jana Natya Manch (Janam) affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Budhan Theatre (BT), a community-based group of the indigenous Chhara, located in the cities of Delhi and Ahmedabad respectively. According to her, both troupes allow for a critical analysis of the sentiment of optimism that so frequently surrounds the creative economy, and indeed cultural activism itself (p.17). The book is divided into three parts. Through a historiographic analysis of India’s long standing use of creativity as a resource for social betterment, chapter one and two situates the creative economy in relation to caste, religion and communal violence; how creative economy has historically worked to Hinduize urban space. Chapters three to five outline what Costa calls Janam’s “ideology for life”—a lifelong devotion to labor activism through theatrical performance. Chapter six to eight explore Budhan Theatre and situates dramatic texts in the context of the lives of Chhara members within BT, as well as Chharas who have little to do with BT but nonetheless help us understand the power and limits of BT’s practice.
“This book attends to the surplus of meanings and forms of cultural production that are not entirely captured by valorization of creativity for capital and Hindu nationalism, demonstrating that the boundaries of the creative economy are carved out through encounters and struggle rather than prior to them” (p.18Politicizing Creative Economy- Activism and a Hunger Called Theater