Dia Da Costa, PhD

Professor, Faculty of Education - Educational Policy Studies Dept


Professor, Faculty of Education - Educational Policy Studies Dept
(780) 492-7608 Ext: 27608
7-133H Education Centre - North
8730 - 112 St NW
Edmonton AB
T6G 2G5




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 even while I questioned some of the manifestations of 'development.' It did not teach me to question the historical project of development, or its links with state violence, or the conventional and popular articulations of 'development' 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 Social Justice and International Studies in Education.  



Research Interests:

  • Feminist, Marxian, Post/Anti/Decolonial Theory
  • Critical Race, Anti-Caste, Indigenous Studies
  • Cultural Politics of State Violence and Development, and Nationalism
  • Performance, Political Activism, and Feminist Praxis
  • South Asia, South Asians in Canada

My research and teaching focuses on transnational feminist and de/anti/post/colonial approaches to state violence and development discourses (state benevolence), as well as activist struggles in relation to both these forms of state formation. My scholarship has analyzed the ways in which non-formal spaces of education and praxis (e.g. activist politics and performance) interrupts and articulates with leftist, capitalist and Hindu nationalist histories. Whilst attending to these intersecting structures of oppression, I variously analyze feminist, middle-class, peasant, and indigenous activism and its relationship to state violence and benevolence. As such, I have conducted research on and collaborated with a number of activist groups in India since 1999. My longstanding relationship with activist communities 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 state constructions of creativity, gender, education, labour, and culture in an effort to problematize ‘development’ as an ever contested idea. My recent publications analyze 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. 

In recent years, my research has moved toward the study of the ways in which South Asian communities in India and Canada name, challenge, and evade state violence. I am beginning to research and write about the significant if unsettling responsibilities that emerge from confronting the structural complicities generated by inhabiting multiple colonialisms in contemporary societies. Building on critical indigenous 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).

A conversation with Richa Nagar and Sarah Saddler on ideas emerging from my book: "The Perils and Possibilities of Creative Economy: A Conversation" in AGITATE!

Research Project 2: Cultural Production Under Multiple Colonialisms (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: https://rce.ualberta.ca/ 

An Interview done by Scott Lingley. "Whose Creativity Counts"

Co-Edited Special Issue on workshop papers. Co-Edited with Alexandre Da Costa and Meaghan Frauts. 

"Introduction: Cultural Production under Multiple Colonialisms." with Cultural Studies. 

"Eating Heritage: Caste, Colonialism and the Contestation of adivasi Creativity." with Cultural Studies.  

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 South Asian and South Asian Canadians, this book aims to conceptualize caste and indigeneity in a transnational frame.  

"Academically-Transmitted Caste Innocence" in Raiot Magazine

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 contemporary society, development, education and politics, as part of their graduate training. 

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

Courses Commonly Taught:

Qualitative Research Frameworks and Methodologies

Feminist Theories and Epistemologies

Education and Social Change

Cross-Cultural Studies in Education

International Development Education


EDPS 401 - Selected Topics in Educational Policy Studies

Prerequisite: consent of Department.

Fall Term 2021
EDPS 411 - Cross Cultural Studies in Education

This course is an ethnographic study of the interrelatedness of educational and cultural practices and how they affect different social groups in Canadian and global contexts. It considers how cultural politics affect schooling, its outcomes, and the range of educational opportunities for different students in relation to their ethnocultural backgrounds. Examining both the historical and contemporary dynamics of schooling, the course examines how the schooling-larger culture interaction shapes the social, political, and economics dimensions of students' lives.

Fall Term 2021
EDPS 422 - International Development Education

This course examines the interplay of education and international development in diverse contexts of our world. Theoretical analysis and discussions will focus on different types of education, the histories of international development and globalization, as well as citizenship, social justice and human rights education. These topical foci will be complemented by specialized regional perspectives on the state of education and social development in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean region and Oceania.

Winter Term 2022
EDPS 524 - Feminist Theories and Epistemologies

This graduate seminar introduces students to key feminist contributions to explanations for social phenomena (i.e. theory) and key feminist debates on how we know what we know (i.e. epistemology). Feminists' key contribution to epistemologies has highlighted the power relations that shape the biases which inevitably inform any and all knowledge production. The course draws on Indigenous, Black, Dalit and anti-caste, Third World, and Women of Colour feminist theories to explore the variety of epistemological challenges these pose to canonical feminist theories and considers their implications for a variety of sites of education: from classrooms to policies and activism.

Winter Term 2022

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