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7. The impact of schooling on life-histories

This has emerged as a significant issue within lower caste or Dalit autobiographies and biographies. The role played by caste associations in facilitating the education of these communities has not been adequately recognized within state policy and not discussed adequately within the larger history of education in India. Education also plays a significant role in the construction of life trajectories in European autobiographies of people from a poor or working class background. At the GHIL a DFG-AHRC sponsored project is presently analysing “pauper narratives” which will contribute interesting comparative perspectives on the ambivalent school experiences of pauper children in Europe as well as methodological expertise. At the same time one of the interests of the GHIL is on biographical writing and narrations in a colonial context. The GHIL hosted a major international conference on this topic in spring 2012.

Jana Tschurenev
Gender, Education, and Inequality

Within the framework of the TRG’s collaborative research project on “Key Moments of Educational Policy towards the Poor”, the sub-project “Gender, Education, and Inequality” focuses on changing educational regimes with regard to gender relations, particularly the educational opportunities for women, from the 1820s to the late 20th century. Central issues to be explored will include:

  • Changes in the access of men and women to formal educational institutions (in the context of elementary or mass education and higher education);
  • Changes in the gender-differentiated content of education or curriculum, such as debates and policy statements on the need to educate women ‘as women’ or mothers and keep them away from sciences or literary instruction;
  • The emergence of women as agents in the ‘contested terrain’ of educational politics, as teachers, ‘experts’ and educational policy makers and the linkages between educational policy, literacy, and the development of feminism, as well as other emancipation movements;
  • Changes in the conception of gender, underlying educational policy-making: The ways in which education contributes to the construction of gender differences, the naturalization of gender hierarchies, or more egalitarian modes of gender identity and practice;
  • The effects of literacy and education on notions of life-cycles and on individual life-courses.

The sub-project looks at gender and education from an intersectionality perspective. It will analyze the gender politics of educational projects and debates in relation to other power relations, along the lines of caste, class, and colonialism/imperialism. Moreover, it will take into account the question of changing notions of life-cycles and debates about girlhood and widowhood as crucial to the development of ‘female education’. A major outcome of the sub-project will be a book monograph on ‘Women, Inequality, and Education in Colonial India: Intersectional Perspectives’ (Jana Tschurenev), in which each chapter explores the emergence of a new regime of education for girls and women, from the 1820s to the 1920s, on regional levels (Bengal, Maharashtra), as well as in the emerging domain of nationalist educational politics and policies. The postcolonial period and other regional developments will be explored in cooperation with other TRG members.

Janaki Nair
Oral History Project: Documenting the lives of the urban poor with a specific reference to the links between poverty and education: a set of interviews

The Oral History Project will develop an archive of Oral Histories/Life stories of the poor, with special emphasis on the relationships between poverty and elementary education/skill building. An effort is being made to include as diverse a geographical area as possible: at this point, the chosen areas are: National Capital Region, Madhya Pradesh, UP, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Bengal. The histories chart educational prospects and problems with reference to questions of gender, caste, ethnicity, and region (rural/urban). These transcribed and translated oral histories will be available for writing and reflection by constituent members of the larger project.

Malini Ghose
What exclusion leaves out: The "life-worlds" of educational policy making in contemporary India

My research examines the creation of narratives and discourses around educational policies in India from the mid-80s and subjects of policies, primarily women and girls from marginalised communities. The objectives of the research are to examine the historical, political, and lived dynamics that shape--and complicate-- the categories, imperatives and assumptions of policy-making. By embedding policy debates and practices in ethnographic life histories, I hope to illuminate the `big picture data’ generated by the Indian state. The research will interrogate the many binaries—for example included/excluded, powerful/powerless, structure/agency—through which policies and lives are typically examined. Some of the questions I ask are: In the context of education how is ‘exclusion’ actually lived and experienced, and what does this tell us about how it might be undone? In what ways has education enabled new opportunities and subjectivities to evolve? How do ‘target populations’ as both subjects and objects of policies, shape discourses, policies and programmes? What informs their aspirations and strategic choices related to education?

I use “life-worlds” consciously in my title to encompass policies, life histories of “subjects” and the macro context within a connected analytical frame drawing on the understanding that policies are not just texts but are lived. I will employ a feminist approach to conduct my ethnographic work, thus interrogating multiple, intersecting and mediated power relations. Drawing on Foucauldian notions of governmentality I will examine the modern state’s exercise of power through an ensemble of institutions, procedures, analysis and tactics