The Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), which is underway in the pink city, has been a trailblazer, sparking a stampede of literature festivals in its wake, with no less than 70 of them springing up across India and South Asia. And interestingly, most of them have managed to secure some form of corporate and government support. The JLF, for instance, has enjoyed the support of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), the public diplomacy division of the ministry of external affairs, and the ministry of culture. Its sponsors include a veritable who’s who of the corporate world, not to mention the cultural diplomacy wings of various countries, such as the British Council, Alliance Francaise, and the American Center. The Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF), another big stop in India’s lit-fest circuit, also boasts of state and corporate partners.
What is it about lit-fests that have made them such popular sites for the happy convergence of literature, private capital, and the state as they stage a seductive spectacle of culture, tourism, and the simultaneous production and consumption of both?
Sarah Brouillette’s Literature and the Creative Economy, published in late 2014, provides some answers. It painstakingly assembles the socio-political context for this recent bonhomie (the JLF became an annual event from 2006 onward) between literature and its traditional adversary, the utility-driven world of commerce.