Professor Profiles

Dia Da Costa

Dia Da Costa, PhD

Associate Professor, Theoretical, Cultural and International Studies in Education


Educational Policy Studies

About Me


I came to North America from India having inherited the colonial idea that we must go abroad to educate and train ourselves about how to be of service at home. Nationalist ideas had taught me to see 'development' as the solution to India's problems but it did not teach me to question the meaning of development in its conventional and popular forms in India and abroad. My undergraduate and graduate education taught me to question the powerful pedagogies inherent in 'development', nationalism, and colonialism. 

I am trained in various traditions of social theory and research received on three different continents (University of Delhi, India (BA Sociology), University of Warwick, UK (MA Sociology of Education), and the US). I completed my Ph.D. in Development Sociology at Cornell University in 2003. I was Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Hobart and William Smith colleges, a liberal arts college in upstate New York from 2004 until 2007. In the fall of 2007, I joined as Assistant Professor in the Department of Global Development Studies at Queen’s University (cross-appointed to Sociology and the Cultural Studies Program). I was a tenured Associate Professor at Queen’s until 2015 when I joined the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta. In this Department, I belong to the specialization of Theoretical, Cultural and International Studies in Education.  


Research Interests:

  • Feminist, Marxian, Postcolonial Theory
  • Critical Race, Anti-Caste, Indigenous and (Settler) Colonial Studies
  • Cultural Politics of Development, Nationalism, and Patriarchy
  • Pedagogies of Development, Citizenship and Belonging
  • Affect, Performance, Political Activism, and Feminist Praxis
  • Creative Economy Discourse and Urban Development
  • Gender and Development
  • South Asia

My research and teaching emphasize development policies and cultural politics in India and South Asia at the nexus of state formation, activism, and performance analyzing the ways in which non-formal spaces of education and praxis (e.g. activist performance) interrupts and articulates with leftist, capitalist and Hindu nationalist histories. As such, I have conducted research on and collaborated with a number of activist groups in India since 1999. My longstanding relationship with grassroots activism is an inspiring, sometimes difficult, but always significant site through which I learn, teach, write, and exercise political imagination and belonging in this world. This research experience has also taught me to navigate the blurred and power-laden boundaries between theory and practice, research and teaching, policy and activism. I have published on questions of performance, gender, education, labour, health, and development policy approaches to ‘culture’ in an effort to problematize ‘development’ as an ever contested construction of ‘the good life’, new social futures, and belonging. My recent publications analyze marginal spaces of creative, activist performance and their fraught historical, discursive, and affective relationship to proliferating creative economy discourses within neoliberal urban planning and ethnic supremacist processes in contemporary India. 

I am beginning to research and write about the unsettling responsibilities that emerge from the structural complicities generated by inhabiting multiple colonial relations in contemporary societies. Building on critical indigenous, settler-colonial, and anti-caste scholarship, this work is committed to drawing out structural complicities and responsibilities whilst conceptualizing caste and indigeneity in a transnational frame. 

Research Project 1: Politicizing Creative Economy

SSHRC-funded research on activist performance and India's creative economy discourse and planning. Resulted in: 

A single-authored book manuscript entitled Politicizing Creative Economy: Activism and a Hunger called Theatre (2017, University of Illinois Press, Dissident Feminisms Series). 

'Sentimental Capitalism in Contemporary India: Art, Heritage, and Development in Ahmedabad, Gujarat' in Antipode (2015).

Research Project 2: Reimagining Creative Economy (with Alexandre Da Costa)

SSHRC-funded workshop on what counts as creativity under multiple articulations and relationships of colonialism in Asia and the Americas. Resulted in: 

Workshop held at the University of Alberta, April 27-29, 2017. Website: 


In Progress, Co-Edited Special Issue on workshop papers.

Research Project 3: Unsettling Responsibilities: Caste and Indigeneity in a Transnational Frame

Application in process for an internal SAS grant and a SSHRC IG for a single-authored monograph on the responsibilities that emerge from structural complicities across colonized spaces in the contemporary world. Focusing on Dene, Chhara and Kashmir contexts, this book aims to conceptualize caste and indigeneity in a transnational frame.  

Research Project 4: Raising Insurance Awareness: Financial Education in rural India 

Queens University internal seed grant award for a project entitled Raising Insurance Awareness: Insurance, social protection, and risk in agrarian India to analyze the ways in which community-based organizations are educating rural citizens in financial education in order to successfully liberalize India's insurance sector, in tandem with the liberalization of the Indian agricultural system. This research resulted in:

The ‘Rule of Experts’ in Making a Dynamic Micro-Insurance Industry in India’ in Journal of Peasant Studies (2013). 40: 5: 845-65.


Supervisory Interests: 

I encourage graduate study applications interested in decolonial, anti-caste, anti-racist, and feminist pedagogy and politics, development and cultural practice, as well as students interested in the rigorous study of colonial and post/colonial history and ethnographic contexts of ‘development’ and ‘education’ as part of their graduate training.

I supervise in areas of political education, ‘popular’ cultural production, feminist praxis, and the politics of development practice; ‘culture’ in the global political economy (e.g. creative economy, tangible/intangible heritage discourses); contemporary social and cultural theory; South Asia; North America and its colonial capitalist, imperialist and nationalist histories.

Courses Commonly Taught:

Feminist Theories and Epistemologies

Education and Social Change

Cultural Studies in Education

International Development Education