The Politics of Gender, Community, and Modernity: Essays On Education In India

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Item Code: IDI670
Author: Nita Kumar
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 0195682734
Pages: 356
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.7" X 5.5
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Book Description
From The Jacket

This collection deals incisively with multiple sites of education including homes and families, neighbourhoods, cities, and buildings. It studies sources and semantic fields such as reform efforts, texts, languages, and the media. Equally insightful is Kumar's engagement with he questions of history-writing, arguing that the sites of the province, community, and family produce histories other than the ones we typically engage with.

In the first section Kumar engages with the disabling-and empowering-practices gendered and community-oriented histories of modernity in South Asia. The third part proposes Postcolonialism as an appropriate term for discussions of history and modernity.

This book is about the production of Modern India-those who are 'modern' are those who know the narrative of their national history. It is no less about other histories taught and learnt which leave their knowers without power. Kumar narrates the story of education to include the home and the family, mothering and gender relations. She discusses how education includes possible approaches to change and the difficulties with each approach.

Introducing a new approach-the place of affect in history-writing-the author presents radically different ways of looking at the history and the present of modern India. This book relies equally on empirical fieldwork, archival research, and methodological considerations. It will interest students and scholar of education, history, sociology, and gender studies, especially those concerned with the interlinkages between education, gender, community and modernity.

Nita Kumar is Brown Chaired Professor in South Asian History, Claremont McKenna College, California.


I am pleased to be able to bring these essays to the attention of a new set of readers, and perhaps some of my older readers. These essays have been presented and published over the last four or five years, but have been researched and written with a commitment to a larger vision of South Asian history and sociology that emerged during the course of my work on education from 1985 onwards. The larger vision implied such a magnum opus, however, that although I have been pursuing this book of my dreams for a few years now, I would like to take a break from that huge task and present smaller statements of that vision now.

That will not prevent me from making a statement about the larger vision, however. The study of education has presented several fundamental insights. One, that indeed there is agency in history, and that the structures seemingly in place are thus because they are reproduced; that reproduction occurs primarily in sites of education; and that education therefore is the site from where any action to produce continuity or change has been and can be launched. This insight gives one the ability to pursue a number of intriguing questions: How could we talk about the different paces of change in different contexts of activity, for instance, the rapidity of change in the teaching of music? How could we formulate the relationships that obviously exist between the politics of status and the politics of aesthetics? What are the conditions that produce a situation of threat to a community and what produces a sense of comfort? How are responses possibly divided in the spectrum ranging from resignation to violent defence? It seemed to me that much that was worth pursuing in the understanding of history, ranging from discursive control and hegemony to the possibilities of agency and change, was accessible through the data on education.

Another insight is that an epistemological shift, such as was produced by colonialism, is actually the model for how history works. It is not that the structure-event movement exemplified by Captain Cook's presence in the Hawaiian islands is the exception; it is the rule. The smoothness of the transition of the modern Indian intelligentsia to a situation of allegiance with different authority, languages, discourses, and professions suggests that the open-endedness of allegiance was the norm.

Then there is the whole question of development. That term is nowhere used in the essays here, nor elsewhere in my writings. I was aghast at Amartya Sen's uncritical deployment of it when I agreed with so much else in his theses. But that is only because of the negative connotations of the term for me because of developmentalists' relative ignorance of the details of people's lives. But all the details, the subtleties, and the ironies asides, I must admit that the history of education reveals to me the starkness of the inequities of history, and one in which scholars participate. As the main agents for teaching, they effectively block any filtering down of the growing refinements in their sciences to ordinary people-we could posit-since all their labour does not apparently lead to any improvements in the lives of ordinary people, but does lead to improvement in scholars' professional statuses and lives. Whether we accept Amartya Sen's liberal articulation of the matter or a starker Marxist reading of the exploitation of the working class by the intellectual leisured class. We have to confront the fact of scholarship abetting in inequality through education, and not aiding equality.

To keep this brief, the topic of education has acted as an exciting leans for me through which I can look at historiographical, anthropological, and development questions. It is also exciting because of its proximity to lives, especially of young people, and to the wonders of learning. I hope my essays impart some of my excitement to their readers.

I would like to apologize for a slight repetition in some chapters-slight because it concerns some three pages in the whole book- that I chose not to re-write for fear of disturbing the 'architecture' of the essays concerned. I would like to thank all my colleagues, editors, and publishers over the years of these essays. The essays have seen previous incarnations as:

Chapter 1, published in Modern Asian Studies. May 2006.
Chapter 2, published in Diana Mines and Sarah Lamb, eds, Everyday Life in South Asia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002); and Suvir Kaul, ed., The Partitions of Memory (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2000).

Chapter 3, presented at a conference at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, September 2003, on 'Alternative Histories of the Family'.
Chapter 4, published in Seminar, June 2003.
Chapter 5, published in Indian Economic and Social History Review, vol. 38, no 1, 2001.
Chapter 6, published in Gender and History, vol. 17, no. 1, June 2005.
Chapter 7, published in Economic and Political Weekly, 27 April, 1991.

Chapter 8, presented at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, University of Michigan, March 2003.

Chapter 9, published in Geetanjali Shree, Mai (Delhi: Kali for Women, 2000).
Chapter 10, published in Les Jeunes: hantise de 1'espace pubic dans les societes du Sud? Autrepart, no 18, 2001.
Chapter 11, published in Martin Gaenszle, Visualized Space (Heidelberg, 2005).
Chapter 12, published in Derek C. Mulenga, ed., Post-colonialism and Education: Challenging Traditions and Disrupting Boundaries (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).
Chapter 13, published in Economic and Political Weekly, 19 July, pp. 3049-55,2003.

1Provincialism in Modern India: The Multiple
Narratives of Education and Their Pain25
2History and the Nation: The Learning of History in Calcutta and Banaras49
3The Family-School Relationship and an Alternative
History of the Nineteenth-century Family71
4History at the Madras85
5Languages, Families, and the Plural Learning of the Nineteenth-century Intelligentsia99
6Mothers and Non-Mothers: Gendering the Discourse of Education in South Asia125
7Widows, Education, and Social Change153
8Making the Nation: Ansari Women in Banaras171
9The Nature of Reform in Modern India: A Discussion of Mai; a Novel by Geetanjali Shree179
10Learning Modernity?: The Technology of Education in India217
11The Space of the Child: The Nation, the Neighbourhood, and the Home238
12The Scholar and Her Servants: Further Thoughts on Postcolonialism and Education287
13A Postcolonial School in a Modern World299
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