The arts in development : an investigation of the contribution of contemporary dance to development in urban Fiji : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand
This thesis explores the contribution of the arts to development, taking the cultural turn in
development as its point of entry. It treads new ground in that the cultural turn, largely,
does not examine the specific area of ‘the arts’ as deliberate and heightened expressions
of culture (Pérez González, 2008:11). Complementing the cultural turn’s emphasis on
agency and multiplicity, the thesis also argues for the location of the arts within the
aspiration for choice and freedom (Kabeer, 1999: Sen, 1999), and it looks to alternative
development for modes of ‘doing’ development. These are models driven by concerns for
participation, therefore, recognising agency, diversity, freedom and voice. A model is
developed delineating three possible levels of contribution of the arts to development and
suggesting that the inherent value of the arts underlies and unlocks the economic and
other instrumental values that they also possess (McCarthy et al, 2004:37-39).
This research uses a qualitative research methodology. Fieldwork was carried out in Suva,
Fiji, with a focus on Vou Dance Company, a part-time, semi-professional dance group.
Qualitative methodology was appropriate to the research because it responds to the
importance that is placed on the search for values and meanings within the understanding
of development as freedom as well as in the cultural turn and alternative development.
Three methods of data collection were used. These were observation, participant and key
informant interviews, and a participatory dance workshop.
The research findings established a multifaceted definition of development and supported
all of the types of contribution of the arts suggested by the model developed in this thesis
in attaining development. The members of Vou and other respondents emphasised the
importance of choice and perceive themselves as responsible for making choices available
to others. A balancing of the economic contribution of the arts against values regarded as
‘inherent’, particularly those relating to preservation of elements of (traditional) culture,
alongside the negotiation of hybrid contemporary identities, was consistent across all
respondents. An analysis of national, regional and global policy documents revealed
alignment of policy at all levels to these twin emphases of economy, and heritage and