Author Archives: Forum Transregionale Studien

About Forum Transregionale Studien

The Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien is a research organization that promotes the internationalization of research in the humanities and social sciences. The Forum provides scope for collaboration among researchers with different regional and disciplinary perspectives and appoints researchers from all over the world as Fellows. In cooperation with universities and research institutions in Berlin and the rest of Germany, it carries out research projects that examine other regions of the world and their relationship to Germany and Europe systematically and with new questions.

Video and Discussion Paper: Global Knowledge Disparities – The North-South Divide

Barbara Ischinger (OECD), Hebe Vessuri (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) and Andreas Eckert (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin/Forum Transregionale Studien) discussing about “Global Knowledge Disparities – The North-South Divide”.

Video: Humboldt-Ferngespräch: Global Knowledge Disparities – The North-South Divide on Vimeo.

Text: You can find the discussion paper of the Humboldt-Ferngespräch here (pdf). The text and video are based on the “Humboldt Ferngespräche” discussion held at the Humboldt-
Universität zu Berlin on November 20, 2014  within the framework of the international Winter Academy “Education, Inequality and Social Power. Transregional Perspectives” organized by the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung –
Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland.

Perspectives of Educational Inequality: Variations and Entanglements of Local and Global Asymmetries

By Jane-Frances Lobnibe (University for Development Studies, Tamale) and Jana Tschurenev (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)1

Report of the Winter Academy “Inequality, Education and Social Power: Transnational Perspectives”. The Winter Academy took place in Berlin, November 16-25, 2014 and was convened by the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung – Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland.

An condensed version of the text is published via the online communication platform H-Soz-Kult.

Introduction

Participants Winter Academy

Participants Winter Academy (Photo: Photo: Forum Transregionale Studien under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

As the global economy slowly recovers from the 2008/9 recession, rising social inequality exacerbated by stagnating wages and unequal income distribution is emerging as a major concern of policy makers and national leaders in both the “developed” and “developing” worlds. This development has come about amid a fast changing knowledge economy, requiring specialized labor skills and high quality education to meet the challenges of this complex technological and interconnected world. To be sure, there is a widespread assumption that a panacea to the current predicament is an expanded equal access to quality education. However, as a public good and ideologically charged concept, education is often viewed as a means of and for social mobility and is set with high expectations. But education can also produce inequality and disenchantment in case some groups are denied or excluded from its benefits. The interdisciplinary Winter Academy and conference “Inequality, Education, and Social Power,” in Berlin explored this ambiguity from multiple perspectives. The seven-day event was convened by the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung – Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland in Berlin in cooperation with the Max Weber Foundation’s Transnational Research Group (TRG) on “Poverty and Education”, the research network desiguALdades.net and the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung.

Continue reading

  1. Since both authors participated in the same working group and to some extent also in the thematic discussion groups, this summary is necessarily a very selective one and cannot do justice to all the rich and inspiring presentations given within the winter academy and conference. []

Impressions from the Winter Academy

The organizers would like to thank all the participants for the fruitful discussions during the workshops, lectures and coffee breaks. It was your active engagement that made the Winter Academy a great success.

Introduction

Get Together 

Workshops

Photos: Sascha Bachmann (echtfotografie)

Inequality Generating Process in Longitudinal Perspective: Educational Transitions and Occupational Trajectories in Three Mexican Cohorts (1950-2011)

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Nicolás Brunet.

Nicolás Brunet is a sociologist at the Centre of Sociological Studies, El Colegio de México. He is currently pursuing his PhD with a focus on inequality generating processes in a longitudinal perspective, both at educational and occupational transitions.

Past generations of stratification and social mobility studies have concentrated only on comparative examinations of mobility rates and mobility tables between countries. They have provided a comparative portrait of distinct mobility regimes linked to socioeconomic and industrial development degrees, as well as historical change of occupational patterns throughout different cohorts. In view of the fact that they work on a societal level, little insights were given on the individual level of job/status attainment. In addition, by mixing individuals of different ages, sociodemographic and occupational experiences, classical studies usually have arrived at an unrealistic and without-context picture of the individual level. Notwithstanding the importance of that task, the inequality generating process has remained a “black box”. This project suggests that combining the stratification and social mobility tradition with a life course perspective (LCP) could help us to tackle some of those “black box” restrictions. Thus, the aim of this research is the comparative analysis of trajectories of three Mexican birth cohorts (1951-53; 1966-68 and 1978-80), throughout school inequalities, occupational chances and social roles competition at different institutional and social settings and opportunities. By multilevel life event modeling techniques, this project looks at stratification trajectories, based on family background tradition, but also, by using an interlocking careers perspective. Contributing to a “connected” portrait of life course stratification logic, it also explores evidence of “cumulative advantages” versus “age-transitional” lifetime processes. At the individual level, it uses longitudinal retrospective information provided by “Encuesta Demográfica Retrospectiva” (EDER 2011) at the national level. To set up institutional and social settings, it uses data of General Population, Household and Housing Census (1960, 1970, 1990, 2000 y 2010) provided by IPUMS International Project.

Continue reading

What Exclusion Leaves out: The “Life-worlds” of Educational Policy Making in Contemporary India

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Malini Ghose.

Malini Ghose is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Goettingen as part of the Max Weber Foundation Transnational Research Group “Poverty and Education in Modern India”. Before joining the TRG, she had been advocating issues of education, gender and equity in India for two decades.

This research seeks to examine 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. Briefly, the objectives of the research are to examine the historical, political, and lived dynamics that shape-and complicate- the categorical imperatives and assumptions of policy-making, and to embed policy debates and practices in ethnographic, micro-political and historical life histories, thereby providing meaning to the `big picture data’ that is regularly generated by the Indian state. The research will also interrogate the binaries – for example included/excluded, powerful/powerless, structure/agency – through which policies and lives are typically examined. Some of the questions it asks 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 fashion discourses, policies and programmes in their own ways, by bringing with them their own expectations, understandings and politics? What informs their aspirations and strategic choices related to education?

Continue reading

Social Inclusion in Schools: Experiences and Role of Teachers, Students, Management and Parents

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Deepika K Singh.

Deepika Singh is a research scholar at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Her research questions and interest emanate from eleven years of work with government schools, budget schools, teachers, rural communities, groups that are lowest in caste hierarchies, class hierarchy, women and ethnic minorities.

Social exclusion and inclusion are two terms that are making inroads in policy discourse, especially in developing nations including India. They are not part of a binary, although inclusion should be understood in the context of exclusion. In the Indian context according to Thorat and Newman (2010, p 6.), exclusion revolves around societal institutions that exclude on the basis of group identities such as caste, ethnicity, religion and gender. Continue reading

Transforming Work: Training Programs and Retail Worker-Identity in Contemporary Kolkata

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Saikat Maitra.

Saikat Maitra is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Transnational Research Group “Poverty and education in modern India”. He is affiliated with the Centre for Modern Indian Studies at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. His current research interests are postcolonial spaces, contemporary working-class formations, popular cultures, urbanity and development.

This paper ethnographically explores how Employee Training Programs (ETPs) are deployed by organized retail and service industries in Kolkata, India, as pedagogical sites for fashioning an emergent urban worker-subjectivity amongst underclass urban youth employees. Since the collapse of Kolkata’s industrial bases, entry-level jobs in the rapidly expanding organized retail and service industries offer the best hopes for formal employment for the city’s under-privileged youth populations. Unlike the mechanical/cognitive skills required in industrial factories, service work in spaces such as shopping malls, high-end cafes or multi-cuisine restaurants today increasingly utilize the workers’ generalized social skills. What ETPs strive for is a complete re-making of the worker-subjectivity by inculcating the ideals and practices of global consumerism that the workers are then expected to convey to customers in service spaces. Simultaneously, ETPs seek to erase the visible traces of the workers’ socio-economic vulnerabilities from their bodies, deportments, speech patterns or forms of social interaction.

Drawing on ethnographic research in three organized retail institutions in Kolkata, the paper suggests that the consumer citizenship norms emphasized by ETPs generate unanticipated frictions between the social realities of urban youth labor and aspirations for consumerism. For workers, low wages, diminishing employment securities or exhausting working conditions rub uneasily against the ‘dream-world’ of commodities and images of the capitalist good-life that ETPs teach them to aspire for. This abiding tension offers a productive lens to read the uneven assimilation of underclass youth populations in India within networks of global consumerism. This research project investigates how corporate institutions like ETPs mobilize a disciplined post-industrial labor by modulating subjective desires and fantasies for consumerist life-styles amongst India’s urban poor. Moreover, it asks what kinds of urban subjectivities are being produced at the fault-lines between pervasive global consumerist cultures and persistent post-colonial conditions of social inequalities in contemporary Indian cities.

Gender, Caste and Higher Education: Pathways and Experiences of Dalit Women in an Elite College in Delhi

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Meenakshi Gautam.

Meenakshi Gautam is currently pursuing a Ph.D. from Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is especially interested in gender and its relation to higher education.

The participation of both men and women in higher education in India has rapidly expanded over the past six decades. There has been steady educational progress among socio-economically disadvantaged and culturally marginalised groups such as SC (Scheduled Caste) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) as well. However, the representation of these groups in higher education is relatively small in comparison to their proportion of population (Rao, 2002; Deshpande, 2006; Chanana, 2012; Weisskopf, 2004). Women belonging to scheduled castes are among the most disadvantaged in relation to their access to higher education (Chanana, 2012; Raju, 2008; Rao, 2002). There is hardly any research on the groups such as SC (or dalit) women who suffer multiple disadvantages resulting from the intersection of caste, class and gender. The intersection of gender with caste and class is likely to lead to diverse pathways and experiences in higher education for dalit women. The present research work aims: a) to map the pathways of dalit women in higher education, b) to explore the pathways of selected women students’ male sibling(s) vis-à-vis participant, and c) to understand the experiences of dalit women within the university.

The study is informed by the intersectionality framework which problematises the intermeshing of structures of inequality (such as caste, race, gender and patriarchy) and analyses them within specific socio-historical contexts (Collins, 2004; Ramirez, 2013). In the Indian context, scholars have observed that the interlocking of class, caste and gender is likely to have a cumulative effect on access to and participation in education (Velaskar, 2007; Chanana, 2007; Paik, 2009). In order to study the experiences of Dalit women, many of whom are first generation in higher education, it becomes important to link their “individual histories” with their “familial habitus” (Reay, et.al. 2005), access to valued “cultural capital” (Bourdieu, 1977) and the challenging and unfamiliar “institutional habitus” of the university (Reay, et.al. 2005).

The methodology is informed by the intersectionality framework and adopts life-history methodology to understand the pathways and experiences of dalit women’s students. It situates the in-depth account of their personal lives within a socio-cultural context (Mwangi, 2009).

A Script for the Masses? Pedagogic Practices and Didactic Traditions among Sylhetis

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Debarati Bagchi.

Debarati Bagchi is as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Dehli, and a member of the Max Weber Foundation Transnational Research Group “Poverty and Education in Modern India”. She is currently working on Sylhet Nagri texts and pedagogic practices in colonial Northeast India.

This proposed project intends to track the circulation of printed and handwritten texts in Sylheti-Bengali, written in Sylhet Nāgarī script in late nineteenth-early twentieth century Sylhet and later among the London-based Sylheti diaspora. The Sylhet Nāgarī script was projected to have been devised as a ‘simplified alternative’ of the sanskritised version of Bengali and was chiefly attributed to the ‘illiterate masses of the Muslim population’ including peasants, fishermen, boatmen – people who were ‘not well versed in Bengali literature.’ Its entire pedagogic endeavour was to bridge the gap between the written (lekhya bhasha) and the spoken (kathya bhasha) and thereby meeting one of the preconditions of democratisation of education – the concern for reaching out to a larger mass. The primer of the script differed from the available forms and contents of primers in the school system not only in its lack of secular content but also in addressing the audience. The declared purpose of this primer was to address an adult audience who would be able to read the texts in Sylhet Nāgarī outside the school system. In content, these texts dealt with the ethics and values associated with the local form of Islam where it was not impossible to find the stories of Yusuf Zuleikha along with the stories Radha-Krishna and the nineteenth century concern for the pervasive threat of conversion to Christianity. Besides songs by Pirs and Fakirs, didactic manuals for the followers of Islam, popular stories viz. the war of Karbala, the life story of Hazrat Muhammad or the love story of Yusuf Zuleikha, the texts also occasionally dealt with chronicles of contemporary social events. It was quite a popular pastime among rural households, especially among women who gathered together from neighboring households to read and listen to these texts.

We do not yet have a comprehensive understanding of the social content of readership and the meaning of these texts in their everyday lives. Through the study of these didactic texts, this project aims to explore the nature of ‘alternative’ pedagogic practices prevalent among the poor masses of Sylhet. Instead of probing the origin of the script or analysing the religious-philosophical foundations of the texts, this project would track the circulation of the texts and the politics of standardisation of the script. It attempts to form an understanding of the public sphere that once consumed these texts and develop an understanding of the colonial modern in the formation of a regional identity. The project also seeks to add a postcolonial dimension to the question by trying to address the historical reasons leading to the revival of Sylhet Nāgarī script among the diasporic population in UK.

Education as a Fundamental Right: Deconstructing Socio-historical Discourses and Challenges

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Latika Gupta.

Latika Gupta teaches courses in educational theory and pedagogy at the Central Institute of Education, University of Delhi. She is currently pursuing a study on the deconstruction of discourse of the recently enacted Right to Education in India.

The challenge facing the Indian system of education, especially at the elementary stage, cannot be adequately met unless we examine the discourses and practices that have shaped the social construction of childhood and schooling. The recently enacted Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act demands and creates an opportunity for identifying and deconstructing such discourses and to examine them, not merely as problematic practices, but rather as culturally drawn borders between state and society. This project interrogates two such discourses: ‘child labour’ and ‘child marriage’ so that the larger socio-economic and cultural context can be examined in which education works. It studies this larger context by probing two discourses that constitute the conditions in which children of disadvantaged backgrounds struggle in order to fulfil their aspiration for education and the personal and social purposes associated with it.

The first of these is the discourse of child labour. This is called a discourse because it has shaped not merely the state’s policies towards the poor but also the popular perception of the lives and potential of children who live in poverty. One dimension of this discourse is the perception that teachers have of poor children’s ability to learn and engage with school knowledge. Children who worked officially as labour or who help their parents because of poverty both fall in this category. When such children come to school and sit in the class with others, in what ways do they get distinguished for their working role at home, and what are the implications of this distinction for their adjustment at school and learning? At this juncture, it becomes important to ask: ‘While poverty persists, can the child’s education be protected from it?’

The second discourse is of child-marriage. In the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-III survey, 47.3% of women reported that they got married before the age of 18. Out of these, 2.6 percent were married before they turned 13 and 22.6 percent were married before they were 16. Faced with these figures, we need to ask: ‘What are the school’s epistemological and cultural resources to act on behalf of the state in its battle against a practice as persistent as child marriage?’ The discourse of child-marriage is not restricted to the event per se. Its phenomenological power lies in the socialization of girls by the family in the anticipation of an early marriage. Is the school prepared to deal and critically engage with a patriarchal milieu in which girls are prepared from early life for marriage—an extended notion of the discourse of child marriage—and responsibility for work, even though it is officially not labelled as labour?

Continue reading

Critical Mind and Labouring Body: Caste and Education Reforms in Kerala

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Sunandan K.N.

Sunandan K.N. is a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Transnational Research Group “Poverty and Education in Modern India” and currently based at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi. His research explores the concepts of mental and manual labour in relation to the caste experiences in the domain of education in India.

Exploring the various educational reform programs implemented in primary schools and high schools in Kerala in India in the last two decades, the project seeks to analyze the dichotomous concepts of mental and manual labour, theoretical and practical knowledge, and general and technical education which constituted the premise of these reform interventions. The broader objective of the project is to understand the role of caste practices in conceptions of body, skill and knowledge as constructed and disseminated in the practices of educational institutions in India. The work focuses on the crucial connection between the reproduction of the above concepts and caste as it is practiced in contemporary Keralam.

The critical scholarship has already mapped the failure of reform initiatives in challenging the continuing domination of patriarchal and casteist forces that operate in the domain of education. Most of these studies conceptualize the question of domination as problem of exclusion of the marginalized groups. This is expressed as the lack of representation of women and Dalits in the decision making bodies, lack of resources for these groups, their low enrollment and high drop-out rate in schools and in general as a problem of socio-economic exclusion.  Naturally the suggestions were focused on educational programs which can become more inclusive and incorporative of marginal groups. While these explanations are valid and important, this works attempts to extend this criticism to basic concept of ‘school’ itself, and as an extension, to the basic assumptions behind the present educational methodologies. The attempt in here is to shift the debate on the exclusions and dominations in education from the domain of institutional to the epistemological. This project attempts to locate the Brahmanical and patriarchal domination not just in the institutional structures but in the very conception of education based on the division between mental and physical labour. The major objective of this project is to develop some preliminary concepts that would help us understand education not only as a project of developing ‘critical thinking’ but also as a project of creating ‘critical action.’

Continue reading

Poverty, Hunger and State Welfare – The Example of the Indian Mid-Day Meal Scheme

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Alva Bonaker.

Alva Bonaker is a member of the Max Weber Foundation Transnational Research Group “Poverty and Education in Modern India” and based at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. Her PhD thesis investigates local perceptions of the Indian Mid-Day Meal Scheme.

photo: private

School Lunch (photo: private)

The nationwide Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) in India was introduced in 1995 with the objectives of enhancing school enrollment, retention and attendance while simultaneously improving nutritional levels among children. The government, moreover, claims that local communities, parents and teachers – especially those from disadvantaged groups – should be given an active role and the scheme should, hence, enhance social equality in classrooms and beyond.

This PhD research traces the question: How do parents, teachers and local communities understand the MDMS, and to what extend do they exert control over its effects? To finally arrive at answering this question, a crucial aspect, which this paper will engage with, is to understand the nature of the scheme within the broader context of state welfare interventions. How have hunger and poverty been understood, and how has this shaped particular social and governmental responses to them? Since the end of the 19th century after disastrous famines in Ireland and India, hunger was increasingly understood as a humanitarian problem and a failure of the government or international political economy (Vernon 2007). In recent times it seems, however, that the humanitarian response has gained most popularity and, as argued by Fassin (2012), governments consciously use the language of humanitarian reason to react to human suffering, but obscure the larger structural and legal systems and distributional politics that cause or maintain inequalities and suffering in society. Fassin points to the consequences of placing compassion over justice, thereby making people mere objects who receive humanitarian aid rather than active subjects.

We can observe the same mechanisms when looking at the reaction of the Indian government to the demand for a right to food. Under pressure from the Right to Food Campaign the government enacted a National Food Security Act in 2013, based on the National Food Security Bill (2011). This Bill has been highly critiqued for its weak interpretation of “entitlements” and “food security”, which give people a passive right to receive something rather than a positive right which they can actively claim. The shift to the provision of cooked meals under the MDMS was also a response of the government to the Right to Food Campaign. This might, hence, be seen as an attempt to draw positive attention to this popular scheme, demonstrating that the government recognizes its moral obligation to provide poor children with food, while refusing to acknowledge poverty and hunger as man-made problems and tackling its actual causes.

Continue reading

State and Non-state Actors in Current Secondary Education Policy in Uruguay: A Complex Configuration

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Cecilia Pereda.

Cecilia Pereda is a doctoral student in the social sciences postgraduate program of the General Sarmiento National University (UNGS) and the Social and Economical Development Institute (IDES), Argentina. She has been working and researching on education topics for fifteen years in state, non-state and international programs.

Since the last decade of the 20th century in many Latin American countries the role of non-state actors in the educational sector has been strengthened, while national education systems have been devaluated within a state and economic crisis context. The devaluation of public education has also occurred in Uruguay but it cannot be attributed to the former situation. State centrality in the educational sector continued in the first decade of the 21st century and, at the same time, there were calls for non-profit actors to co-develop some formal education programs with the aim that adolescents go back to school. These kinds of state programs are not only managed by social organizations and ocated in non-state buildings, but they are also developed by state teachers and pedagogical supervisors. Called communitarian, such programs are involved in local relationships among state and non-state social and educational actors. This project suggests that these local relationships reinforce education and welfare programs by adjusting them to local needs and provide teachers with social knowledge to work with adolescents living in worst life conditions. As a consequence, the complex configuration of actors, actions, logics and scenes present in these local relationships and promoted by such state education programs called communitarian cannot be considered as a simple trend of privatization. A better understanding of the communitarian sphere in educational and social-public policies is needed.

Schooling Women: Debates on Education in the United Provinces (1854-1930)

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Preeti.

Preeti is presently a PhD research scholar at Centre for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. As a member of the Transnational Research Group “Poverty and Education in Modern India”, she is working on “Poverty Reduction and Policy for the Poor – Between the State and Private Actors: Education Policy in India since the Nineteenth Century”.

This doctoral research is focusing on the school education of women (especially of poor and the underprivileged members among the Hindus, and comparison would be made with other communities) in the United Provinces between 1854 and 1930. The present work is confined to the intervening period when the formalization of girls’ education was being mapped out, institutionalized and debated as well. It will examine not only the governmental initiatives, particularly those aimed at the poor and marginalized communities, but also private and missionary efforts, early nationalist efforts, the reach of religious institutions and some of the nascent efforts made by women themselves to assist in the development and growth of women’s education more generally. Why did women’s education, and the education of the poor among them, become a concern of the colonial government at all? What were the social and economic structures which may have thwarted or stimulated the necessity for female education? Comparisons will be made between boys’ and girls’ education through debates regarding the curriculum, funding, special schools or co-education, compulsory education and the creation of demand of female education through the grant of privileges.

Against the socio-cultural environment of nineteenth and early twentieth century, this work is an attempt to explore women’s education in United Provinces. One thing that needs to be remembered is that the women being talked about here are the middle class women, as most writings on education are silent on the question of the education of rural and non-elite women. Female education was limited to middle class women during the late nineteenth century and that is the focus of scholars such as Partha Chatterjee, Tanika Sarkar, J. Devika, and Rosalind O’ Hanlon. These scholars have not explored the state of learning among the poor classes or low caste women. This work would try to explore caste and class differentiation in the field of women’s education. This can be explored through Missionary accounts of their assessment of and contribution to the field of women’s education.

Inequalities and the Production of New Cultural Forms at Government Secondary Schools in Kolkata, India

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Maya Buser De.

Maya Buser De is a PhD student at the Graduate School of International and Area Studies at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul. She works on the reproduction of existing inequalities and the production of new cultural forms by the students at government secondary schools in the megacity of Kolkata.

Indian cities like Kolkata are changing rapidly under the influence of globalization. Economic differences in the population have become more evident, not only in terms of the urban landscape but also in the educational sector. Elite and middle class students have moved to private schools, while government schools mostly cater to students from poor and marginalized backgrounds. Nevertheless, the efforts towards the universalization of primary education have paid off in many parts of the country, even though its quality often remains a concern. On the other hand, secondary schools have not yet received much attention, neither from the authorities nor from the academic community. However, in an increasingly competitive job market they are becoming more and more important for the future of youth from unprivileged backgrounds.

Through a multisite case study, this project attempts to understand how existing inequalities of caste, class and gender are reproduced in government secondary schools in Kolkata and at the same time how students produce new cultural forms to contest and creatively engage with them. This study relies on an approach in critical education theory, with a focus on the socio-economic and cultural dimensions of power relations in and around the school, parallel to an intersectionality approach to inequalities. Moreover, it employs the concept of cultural production, derived from cultural studies, as theoretical framework to understand the agency of students in contesting inequalities in the school environment.