“Make every Indian into a creator of intellectual property”: rethinking Mumbai’s casual labour as a creative class
AbstractWhen the Government of India declares its plan to convert Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda art district into India’s equivalent of Times Square, it does something that many Asian countries are doing in their understanding of the needs of the creative industry. In Mumbai’s case, however, such an act has several additional historical echoes. This paper proposes that the origins of the so-called ‘creative class’ lie in the failure of the city’s historic 1982 textile strike, which saw the return of an artisanal practice to the city, often practiced by a class of casual labourers being forced to turn into low-end entrepreneurs without financial security. Such an artisanal entrepreneurship has had a far more complex relationship with industrialization than most theories recognize, and today’s cultural industries are effectively replaying a longer history of this class in Bombay that may go back to pre-colonial and colonial times. The paper explores both the colonial and developmental interventions into this artisanal class as essential histories to understanding their new relationship to the ‘creative’ economy into which they are being presently inserted.
Keywords:creative economy, artisan, casual labour, Mumbai, textile industry, working class
Ashish Rajadhyaksha is an independent writer and researcher based in Bangalore. He is the co-editor (with Paul Willemen) of the Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema (1999) and author of Indian Cinema in the Time o Celluloid: From Bollywood to the Emergency (2009).