In the Interstice of Intension and Intention of Transformation: Where Applied Theatre Fosters Neoliberal Entrepreneurship

  • Syed Jamil Ahmed
Part of the Landscapes: the Arts, Aesthetics, and Education book series (LAAE, volume 22)


As robust economic growth lifted Bangladesh from a ‘low-income’ status to a ‘lower middle-income’ status in 2015, there ensued increasing concern among the NGOs operating here that donor funding will dry up by 2021 when the country is expected to achieve ‘middle-income’ status. BRAC (Building Resources Across Communities), the largest NGO in the world measured by the number of employees and of people it has helped, is geared up in meeting this challenge by cutting down its dependence on donor funding. What is the consequent impact on applied theatre mobilized by the NGOs in Bangladesh such as BRAC, as the country eyes the prospect of donor funding drying up? In seeking to obtain a nuanced reading of neoliberal entrepreneurship, this theoretical enterprise mobilizes two key notions of ‘intension’ and ‘intension’. For the purpose of this examination, ‘intention’ denotes ‘an aim or plan’ (OED), and by extension, objective, purpose or goal; on the other hand, the term ‘intension’ stands for ‘the internal content of a concept’ (OED), and by extension, the sum of the attributes contained in a concept.

Working within this theoretical parameter, this paper seeks to trace how BRAC attempts to inculcate neoliberal entrepreneurship in the adolescents of Bangladesh, by mobilizing applied theatre as a tool in its programme titled Stimulating Theatre for Adolescent Girl Empowerment (STAGE). It draws on primary data gathered from field-level investigations conducted as a participant-observer at five BRAC performance sites, semi-structured and structured interviews of STAGE practitioners and BRAC staff, and secondary data collected from BRAC’s published documents and unpublished research. The paper proceeds in three parts. The first locates the transformative principle of BRAC by outlining its array of programmes built on the model of ‘social enterprise’; the second examines how STAGE performances are devised and performed, to serve as interventionist tools to promote transformation in vulnerable adolescents by engaging with issues such drug addiction and financial literacy; and the third uncovers a fault line in the STAGE programme by scrutinizing how the aim, plan or objective (i.e., intention) of BRAC’s transformation, run contrary to the internal content of the concept (i.e., intension) of transformation mobilized by the NGO. The paper concludes by arguing that as BRAC’s relative independence in asserting its own vision of transformation is driving its applied theatre programme for vulnerable adolescents towards fostering neoliberal entrepreneurship.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Syed Jamil Ahmed
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Theatre and Performance StudiesUniversity of DhakaDhakaBangladesh

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