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Title page for ETD etd-04072019-213725

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Gupta, Jyoti
Author's Email Address jyoti.gupta@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-04072019-213725
Title Toward Political Community: Navigating Civic Conditions and Civic Positions in the Creative Economy
Degree PhD
Department Human and Organizational Development
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Paul W. Speer Committee Chair
Lucius T. Outlaw, Jr. Committee Member
Sara E. Safransky Committee Member
Sarah V. Suiter Committee Member
  • political subjectivity
  • creative cities
  • urban and community development
  • neoliberal multiculturalism
  • Nashville
Date of Defense 2019-03-18
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation confronts the deterioration and transformation of public life in the era of neoliberalism and neoliberal multiculturalism. This confrontation is filtered through the creative economy of Nashville, Tennessee, where development trends over the last two decades have hinged on an entrepreneurial and socially liberal urban identity while simultaneously skirting contestations over growing inequality and corporate governance. Here, the arts and cultural sector is entwined with urban politics, as creativity has become a lever for competition, civic engagement, and collective action. This research is based on 18 months of qualitative research, exploring the integration of the arts into Nashville’s civic strategy (for instance, through programs that enroll artists into partnerships with municipal agencies to facilitate public participation), and specifically, the navigations by artists who, while desiring voice, recognition, and representation for their communities, are often conflicted about their roles in urban change and service to a governing ethos that depoliticizes racial and economic struggles. Enabled by theories of subjectivity and democratic politics, this analysis examines artists’ political subjectivities as developed through the institutions and structures that often subjugate and constrain public life, but also through the ways socially- and civically-engaged artists navigate and shape the conditions to act. In this study, I approach artists’ political subjectivities as shaped by self-understandings, actions toward self-determination and self-development, relationships with municipal institutions and private sector developers, cultural policies and development plans, affinity organizations, and a professional development program to train artists in civic practice. Rather than submit artists to hegemonic forces or, alternatively, tout them as beacons of urban activism, I approach socially-engaged artists as urban denizens who are engaged in common struggles for collective agency – where they are navigating collective identities, expressions of conflict, the terms of civic responsibility, and a critical consciousness of social power. While hailed into collective identities that draw them into alignment with the city’s economic development infrastructure, artists, as civic actors, also leverage positions of agency to bring political community into being – where collective capacity for democratic politics is not dismantled by neoliberalism, but is being cultivated through the navigation of its contradictions and the redefinition of its terms.
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