Educational mobility in modernising India: ethnographic insights from rural Chhattisgarh
Peggy Froerer (Brunel University)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on ethnographic research in India, this paper examines how young people’s engagement with education is underscored by a deep-rooted ambivalence about the processes of ‘modernity’ and development that correspond with it.
Paper long abstract:
In India, as elsewhere, dominant perspectives on education within academic and popular discourse are underpinned by assumptions that schooling provides the kind of skills and 'know-how' deemed necessary to provide 'substantive benefits', such as employment, particularly for the disadvantages. Such discourses are also fundamentally mobility oriented. Accompanied by the promise of economic gain, education serves as a 'link to elsewhere', creating the possibility of movement outside of the village. This 'mobility imperative' is connected to wider projects of modernity and development, and to aspirations for participation in non-agricultural employment, located in (usually) urban-based labour markets. Education thus becomes a kind of 'mobility capital', something associated with migration that can be deployed in the pursuit of substantive benefits related to social mobility and development. But how are the putative benefits associated with education supposed to be obtained? And how are these then translated into viable strategies for social mobility? Drawing on research in Chhattisgarh, India, this paper considers how the discourse surrounding the transformative potential of schooling governs the varying aspirations and mobility orientations of marginalised rural youth. The paper also examines the divergent ways that young people engage with this discourse, which sees aspirations for mobility outside of the village pitted against a desire to avoid the risks and uncertainties of urban anonymity. The paper, finally, looks at how this engagement is underscored by a deep-rooted ambivalence about the value and potential returns of education - and about the processes of 'modernity' and development that correspond with it.
Rituals of development: the magic of a modernising project