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.


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