Tag Archives: caste system

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).

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.’

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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.