Nelson, C. (2011). On the Genealogy of Creativity. Knowledge/Culture/Social Change International Conference.
There are few English nouns that have generated such relentlessly good publicity as the word ‘creativity’. It is increasingly found scattered across the literature of the arts and sciences, industry, business management, information technology, education and government. It has been called the key to economic growth, the ‘decisive source of competitive advantage’, and the ‘very heart’ of ‘wealth creation and social renewal’. It is also a burgeoning object of study in the humanities, where it is increasingly applied across spheres and disciplines, most notably in the new interdisciplinary schools of Creative Industries, as well as in the mainstream of the traditional humanities in the rhetoric of the ‘new’ humanities.
This paper investigates the cultural construction of creativity in the context of the history of ideas. It understands creativity not as a given human attribute or ability, but as an idea that emerges out of specific historical moments, shaped by the discourses of politics, science, commerce, and nation. It shifts the ground of analysis away from the naturalised models that have traditionally dominated the field of creativity research, in order to highlight the historicity of a concept that is more commonly deemed to be without history.