Kolkata’s Durga puja: changing places, practices, governance and gentrification

Authors: Debapriya Chakrabarti*, University of Manchester
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: creative-industries, idol-making culture, everyday practices, displacement, tourism policies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The idol-making industry in the Kumartuli neighbourhood of Kolkata is an important crafts-based industry based in a slum area and attracting increasing employment. This traditional cultural industry is associated with the caste-based practice of idol-making and the grand festival of Durga Puja, which attracts large numbers of people. The annual Durga Puja celebration in Kolkata in recent years involves spectacular idols, pavilions and generates a havoc economic turnover with the promotion and patronage of the local government. The central question of this paper is how the changing governance policy, the creative industry and cultural tourism, in particular, is facilitating a wave of displacement and gentrification of the Kumartuli neighbourhood of Kolkata. This paper relates to how the changing practices of the idol-making industry and the tourism initiative of the government are causing a change in the social, cultural and built characteristics of the Kumartuli neighbourhood and its surroundings. The spaces in the densely built informal setting of Kumartuli are contested and negotiated, threatening the existing practices and the everyday lives of residents. Besides drawing on the creative capital of the inner-city area and the subsequent (mis)using of the place-based resources; this paper also addresses wider implications of state policies and the changing pattern of consumerism towards the traditional arts and crafts. A participatory visual method followed by in-depth interviewing of stakeholders as part of detailed ethnographic fieldwork opened up the spaces of production, the processes and practices illustrating the place, on-going change and the residents’ perception of the state policies.

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