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 this Department with training in various traditions of social theory and research received on three different continents (India, UK, 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.  


Research Interests:

  • Feminist, Marxian, and Postcolonial Theory
  • 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 scholarship analyzes 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.  

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 (forthcoming, 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)

Application in process for SSHRC Connection grant for a workshop on creative economy practices in Asia and the Americas, with a view to (a) deconstruct the goals and meanings of innovation, entrepreneurship, and revenue-generation within creative economy planning and (b) highlight the political and aesthetic potential of unrecognized cultural production within embodied and digital spaces of creativity and (c) publish a journal special issue on the topic.

Research Project 3: Rethinking anti-nationalist politics in India: Hindutva and caste in education and activism

Application in process for an internal SAS grant and a SSHRC IG for a single-authored monograph on anti-nationalist practices that have come under scrutiny and censure in the context of resurgent Hindu fundamentalism and upper-caste domination with Indian education systems. The goal of this project is to examine the myriad performative and poetic spaces that question the status quo of violence and discrimination for marginalized populations and provide an alternative pedagogical space for nurturing activism, teaching, and learning. 

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 grassroots and feminist approaches to development and cultural practice and politics, as well as students interested in the rigorous study of post/colonial history and ethnographic context of ‘development’ and ‘education’ as part of their graduate training.

I supervise in areas of political and ‘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.

Courses Commonly Taught:

Development Dramas

Education: A Contradictory Resource

Gender and Development

Cultural Politics of Development