Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Nationalism, Neoliberal Globalization, Culture, South Asia, Indian Classical Dance, Performance

Major Advisor

Dr. Manisha Desai

Associate Advisor

Dr. Bandana Purkayastha

Associate Advisor

Dr. Mary Bernstein

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


Indian classical dance is a profession and a cultural practice, that is premised on the notion of historic indigeneity. In this research, I study the lived experiences of the practitioners of an ancient traditional cultural form with strong nationalist connections in the neoliberal era. I draw on a multi-sited qualitative data set that includes over three-hundred hours of data, in two sites, Kolkata, India, and New York, U.S.A. To understand the practice, I look at the factors that lead to occupational selection, the motivations of the practitioners, and, how the practitioners respond to changes in the practice under neoliberal globalization. Given the strong link of this practice to Indian nationalism, I examine the intersections between neoliberalism and nationalism both in India and in the Indian diaspora in the United States. I show that neoliberal globalization has impacted the cultural practice of dance in four ways-- orientation towards fast-paced cultural acquisition; efforts to increase cultural comprehension; support for cultural conservation; and, infallible belief in cultural durability, but that these responses can only be understood in the context of preexisting social inequalities. I also find that the dancers’ explanation of their involvement in the practice as a calling, resonates with the nationalist construction of Indian classical dance as well as the postcolonial state’s efforts to highlight its ancient origins and spiritual nature. Thus, my main argument is that though neoliberalism clearly shapes cultural practices, they continue to be shaped also by pre-existing historical nationalist hybrid formations of power inequalities both at home and abroad.

Available for download on Monday, July 29, 2030