Scholars increasingly view the arts, creativity, and the creative economy as engines for regenerating global citizenship, renewing decayed local economies, and nurturing a new type of all-inclusive politics. Dia Da Costa delves into the global development, nationalist and leftist/progressive histories shaping these ideas with a critical ethnography of two activist performance groups in India: the Communist-affiliated Jana Natya Manch, and Budhan Theatre, a community-based group of the indigenous Chhara people.
As Da Costa shows, commodification, heritage, and management discussions inevitably creep into performance. Yet the ability of performance to undermine such subtle invasions make activist theater a crucial site for considering what counts as creativity in the cultural politics of creative economy. Da Costa explores the precarious lives, livelihoods, and ideologies at the intersection of heritage projects, planning discourse, and activist performance. By analyzing the creators, performers, and activists involved—individuals at the margins of creative economy as well as society—Da Costa builds a provocative argument. Their creative economy practices may survive, challenge, and even reinforce the economies of death, displacement, and divisiveness used by the urban poor to survive.